The popularity of Rradijo, a direct-to-DVD comedy series of an elderly man who loves his food passionately and, with the same zeal, hates visitors who call at meal times, might be evidence of a burgeoning direct-to-DVD movie industry in the country.┬á ┬á
While direct-to-DVD films are stigmatised in Hollywood for their compromised technical and artistic integrity, they remain the bloodline of many movie industries, particularly in Japan, Nigeria’s Nollywood, and India’s Bollywood.
Eric Ramogobjwa, of the record company, Ramco Loco, which has also expanded into filmmaking, released Flash, a movie about a conman, his victim and her family, which Ramogobjwa co-produced last year. He says direct-to-DVD is an easier route for the independent filmmaker, to avoid costs such as transferring the movie to 45mm film and the resources needed for the theatrical release of the movie.
“We have an in-house film crew at Ramco Loco,” Ramogobjwa said. “So we do not need to hire facilities for shooting and editing the film, though I am not at liberty to divulge how much was spent in the shooting of Flash, it makes a movie cheaper to produce.”
This is the same crew that shot Kganka’s new DVD, which features the song Ke Thutswe ke Koloi ya Digas made into a 40-minute comedy movie.
“It really helps in sales of the DVDs, because Batswana have grown tired of watching traditional dancers singing and dancing, it’s acceptable as a performance but it’s really nothing new.”
“We are growing the art by creating mini movies to go with the music DVDs,” Ramogobjwa said.
He says Ramco Loco’s hip hop artist, Mosako, will also release his direct-to-DVD movie that will support his music video.
“It will be in Botswana’s hip hop context, we try to centre in Botswana to reflect matshelo a batho mo gae.”
Babedi Ramogobjwa, Sales Manager at music and DVD retailers, Ko Setlhareng, sells all the locally produced movies, Rradijo, Mamenemene, White Collar and Flash and she confirms the popularity of these movies.
“People are appreciative of Botswana stories and our sales reflect it,” she said. “On a good day, we can sell up to 7 copies of Rradijo,” Babedi said.
The actor, who plays Rradijo, Radikgang Madiane, also directed the comedy series. He has beginnings in theatre, at Nhabe Museum drama group, and had an idea for turning a fable about a man who loved food even more than his own wife into a play.
“It was very popular as a play, and on a whim I decided to put it on DVD, to challenge the market,” Madiane said. “And, by the love of God, Rradijo got very popular.”
Rradijo was popular enough to sell two more sequels and receive an offer from SABC to turn the comedy into a television series, says Madiane.
“We are still in negotiations,” Madiane said.
Madiane says the Rradijo’s marketing has been by word of mouth. And they have so far managed to sell about 150 000 units in total between Botswana and South Africa, were the traditional dance troupe, Mokorwana, that Madiane manages, tours constantly.
Meanwhile, Madiane’s crew of 11 actors who take turns shooting when they are not on camera, are working on a fourth installment of Rradijo.