April 11 2010: As a criminal in the 1970s, Brixton! Manyama! Lephepe! (exclamatory emphasis his) was every Mahalapye resident’s worst nightmare. Almost 40 years later, he gets to relive his past life with cameras rolling on the big screen.
Manyama will co-star in a government-supported film project called “Chronicles of a Mahalapye Gangster.” When the shooting begins in three weeks, he will play the part of Ntsu, a down-on-his-luck ex-convict who has gone back to his old ways to put food on the table, and a six-pack in the fridge.
His story is part of Mahalapye’s history. In his youth Manyama plied his trade in the village and on Rhodesian Railways trains. Alongside a now-deceased accomplice called Spare, he acquired notoriety that, unfortunately, came to be associated with what was otherwise a normal Setswana village.
Before he can relive his past life on the big screen, Manyama, together with all the actors in the project, will be work-shopped for two days by officials from the Department of Culture.
‘Chronicles of a Mahalapye Gangster’ is an all-Mahalapye affair. It was written and is being produced by Moemedi Moseki of Mabutswa Promotions, a Mahalapye-based media house. All the actors are residents of the village. The movie’s soundtrack spans a wide range of hip hop, kwaito, kwasa kwasa and house songs by Mahalapye artists.
Some of the artists, like Manyama, are ex-convicts. In what may be a first for the Botswana film industry, a local white businessman also acts in the film.
The film has a strong South African element. Moseki says that some of the songs for the soundtrack will be coming from South Africa and that he will be selling both the film and the soundtrack in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup extravaganza. Some of the tracks will come from Drastik, a Motswana producer based in South Africa, who is with Cashless Society.
Mahalapye may be thousands of kilometers away from Los Angeles but ‘Chronicles of a Mahalapye Gangster’ has echoes of ‘Training Day.’ It was Training day that earned Denzil Washington his first Oscar and prompted rapper Jada Kiss to ask, ‘Why Denzel had to go bad before he took it?’, in a verse of his hip hop hit Why.
Some scenes of ‘Training Day’ were shot in an extremely violent, gang-controlled part of LA and permission had to be sought from the same people who made the place dangerous. In the same vein, following permission from the unofficial powers-that-be, one scene in the movie will be shot at a beer tavern in a crime-infested ward in Mahalapye.