Lebogang Rasethaba

Four Scenes with Director Lebogang Rasethaba

We go behind four key scenes in the latest work of director Lebogang Rasethaba.

In the editing room, a film begins as collection of scenes. Scenes that directors have spent hours visualising in their imagination, crafting through storyboards, communicating to their team and finally realising through countless takes to get the perfect timing, lighting and performance. In the edit, individual scenes are scrutinised and sequenced to establish the tone, to deliver the punchline, and to ultimately tell the story that resonates most.

Represented by Egg Films’ Arcade, Lebogang Rasethaba is a director whose work resonates. Whether his latest offering is a brand film, a music video or a feature-length documentary, his work holds cultural relevance. His brand films for the likes of Nike or Standard Bank highlight some of the country’s most innovative, influential creatives. If it’s in the minds, hearts and social feeds of young South Africans, Lebogang finds a way to address it. He is quoted in his official bio, saying, “There is this intensely creative, unapologetically young and curious energy in South Africa that I sense and subscribe to; it’s really infectious and I point my camera in that direction.”

He followed this energy through the electronic music scene unique to South Africa in his documentary Future Sound of Mzansi with musician Spoek Mathambo, to the #feesmustfall movement and the conversations it brought to the fore in his documentary The People Versus The Rainbow Nation. His next documentary The People Versus Patriarchy, currently in production, will prompt vital dialogue about dismantling patriarchal systems and attitudes in South African culture. 

His latest commercial, a story of a HIV positive hero for the organisation Brothers for Life, is a change of pace bringing welcome humour to a serious message. In it, we get a glimpse at his personal brand of humour.

Interested to know what else goes on in his mind, we asked Lebo to press pause. In an unconventional interview, he chooses four pivotal scenes from his latest work. He reveals his thinking behind each moment as well as what was literally happening behind the camera.


1. Nike ‘Air To Move You Forward’ Commercial feat. DJ Doowap

Watch the full commercial here.

Why did you choose this scene? Very few people know this side of Doowap, that at age 16 she had aspirations of being a professional diver. Telling the story of hidden dreams hopefully will encourage people to bring all their dreams to the fore, to the real, to the living.

What did you set out to capture? Because it was the first presentation of this side of Doowap, it was important it looked amazing and it made her dream seem big and beautiful, worthy of all cinematic praise available. She kinda floats above as if she is operating in a different orbit path, a higher space time continuum.

What was happening behind the scenes? It was a lot of takes. Doowap is a perfectionist so she was willing to keep going, her form had to be spot on because I guess she wanted to look legit, you know, which she is. It was fucken cold, but that didn’t matter, she kept saying “did you get it? Let me cav…nah fuck it we going again, is your camera ready?”


2. Brothers for Life Commercial

Watch the full commercial here

Why did you choose this scene? This is the comedic climax of the ad. The creative team and I came up with this scene together. It’s weird, it’s funny, it’s cinematic…it properly encapsulates the humorous ambitions of the advert. This is the scene that gets people laughing the most.

What did you set out to capture? The idea was that our character performs these little miracles that are kind of unique to his world, you know, little hood miracles embedded into the DNA of his community that makes his presence undeniably necessary. The kids need to get to school, the bridge is broken, they call his name, he appears, he lies down, they walk over him…I am laughing as I type this.

What was happening behind the scenes? This was the first time I worked with so many kids, it was a low intensity nightmare. They kept looking into camera, some were too scared to walk over his back even though we had crash mats underneath, some could only take instructions from their mothers so we had like 20 moms co-directing this scene. I am getting anxiety flashback attacks thinking about how behind schedule we were at this point.


3. The People Versus Patriarchy Documentary

Why did you choose this scene? We are at a very critical moment in history where if men don’t change their attitudes towards women, themselves and the world at large we are in danger of fucking everything up forever. I don’t know what that means in a real practical sense but I know we are on the brink of irreparable damage to ourselves. This is a scene from the documentary where a group of men are discussing that, how do we as men combine and group together to attempt the long journey ahead of dismantling patriarchy.

What did you set out to capture? The change will come in society from various moving parts, and one of the fundamental pillars is a dialogue. This scene is one of those dialogues.

What was happening behind the scenes? Drama, drama and more fucken drama. Arguments, epiphanies, agreements, disagreements, male fragility, male complicity in fuckery, pledges to do better, blindspots, calling each other out, it was a lot.


4. Sons of Kemet – In the Castle of My Skin

Watch more here

Why did you choose this scene? I think these kinds of moments really allow us the freedom to re-imagine certain ideas about who we are and what’s possible. Just by saying: “Hey, pantsula as self-expression, as a way of life, as an attitude can co-exist with something as exclusionary, as prim and proper, and as inaccessible as orchestra.” I aspire to make work that frees people’s minds to re-think the potential of their existence just by putting things into a new, fresh context.

What did you set out to capture? The complexity of the song, the complexity of the dance routines, the complexity of aspiration as a secondary narrative, but then making all this a simply beautiful, memorable viewing experience that people would love for years to come.

What was happening behind the scenes? We had a small rental car that we were blasting the song through and all these dancers doing this flawless routine for hours. It became a scene. People came out in the numbers to watch the spectacle and they were simply mesmerised for hours. People brought out camp chairs and snacks and came to watch the shoot the entire day, and they grew to love the song, which as you can imagine would sound pretty weird and foreign in Ivory Park, Tembisa.   


More about Lebogang / his work: eggfilms.tv

Interview by Alix-Rose Cowie.

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