Torch Studios’ first television drama, The Star has made strides in Botswana’s film industry amid the pandemic.
The show’s production team, in collaboration with Europa, hosted a meet and greet for fans with the cast. On the same day, New Capitol Cinemas in Masa premiered the show in a short film that condensed 13 episodes.
Often the newest officers in the force are referred to as ‘Stars’. It’s a sardonic term meant to describe overly overzealous and ready-to-please officers. The Star brings to life the term’s coinage, where the main actor is a dead set officer tossed into a police station rampant with corruption in pursuit of vengeance for her slain journalist friend.
Speaking with Godson Tshipietsile, the show’s producer, he said The Star was the first drama he had done. “I had done short films and films before, but when I got involved in The Star, there were only two episodes that were written, sort of like pilot episodes,” Tshipietsile said.
With a degree in psychology, Tshipietsile never practised the science and attained a post-grad in film. “Right now, there are 13 episodes. The two episodes were shot last year November but were scripted before corona.”
He explained how the Covid-19 took a toll on the filming of The Star. “When we started shooting, Covid-19 regulations were there, but at that point, there were no curfews.” After the Christmas holidays, when curfews came into place, the show’s producer said they had to adapt their script to the new movement restriction hours. “Since it was a police drama, crime scenes happened in the dark. We had to tweak a lot of things and realized that when the curfew is at 8.00 PM, and we have a scene that needs to be shot at 10.00 PM, it becomes impossible to shoot at that time. So, we had to play with the script in a way that we could shoot the same scenes during the day,” said Tshipietsile.
The protagonist in the show, a first-time actor headhunted because of her boisterous personality on TikTok, agreed to an interview. Palesa Molefe, who plays the hellbent Neo Seetso, described her character as a determined and ambitious detective, at the same time headstrong in the most naïve way. “She is a different actor compared to everyone, who comes with a mission and has this premeditated notion of what she wants to do before doing it,” Molefe said.
Like most of the show’s cast, Molefe was a first-time actor. She said The Star is the biggest production she had ever acted in. Molefe, who is usually light in her social media life, had to switch to a staid police officer, and she described the transition as a great experience.
In the show, Neo Seetso partners with Kgotla Modise, played by Kabo Timela. The two embarks on their rookie detective adventures together. A miniature Sherlock Holmes and John Watson duo, Timela plays a goofier Watson. Described as a show where tragedy and comedy dance together, Timela said the show is the perfect blend of various genres. Timela studied drama and film at Tswaneng University and has about ten years of acting. “When I moved back here in 2018, I got cast in Muvhango because they came here in Botswana to do the auditions,” he said.
Timela played Nare in the South African drama series and had a role in MTV’s Shugga. “On top of the acting, I write, direct and do performance coaching, so I meet a lot of talented people,” Timela said. He owns Luminous Art BW that offers professional training in screen and stage acting.
Elaborating on Botswana’s potential, Timela said that he attended the AFDA film festival in River Walk’s New Capitol Cinemas. “I’m seeing that these are student works, and already the ideas are different and surreal. You can tell that people are ready to explore different genres of film as opposed to your conventional drama style and for me, that speaks for the potential.”
Boago Moatlhaping plays Chris Mathiba, who is the villain that stimulates the lead actor’s path. Moatlhaping also revealed that The Star was his first major production that to be involved in. “Before, I did short films for Centre for Youth of Hope (CEYOHO) for awareness and adverts for KFC and Bank Gaborone as an extra,” he said. Moatlhaping shared that his harrowing journey checkered with several auditions is finally paying out as being part The Star.
Yarona FM breakfast show co-host Brando Keabilwe, with a wealth of appearances on Broadway theatre, was part of the cast that came to the meet and greet at Europa. Explaining how he juggled late-night shoots and a morning show Keabilwe said the experience was gruelling, and there were a lot of sacrifices that needed to be made and what they did and had to do was adapt.
Onalenna Pusoetsile, who edited all episodes of The Star, said it was her first time editing a television drama. “I had to stay up late for two months. I edited 13 episodes in two months and had a lot of sleepless nights,” the editor said.
Otsetswe Sedimo, The Star’s executive producer, and Rockstar of Torch Studios said the show is women-led, with most key players females. “The Star employed around 75 to 100 including extras, the majority being young women. In The Star, all front liners were women, the editor was a woman, the director was a woman and our lead actor is a woman, and our two writers are women,” Sedimo said. Breaking stereotypes that the film scene is male dominated, The Star boasts a high ratio of women representation.
The Star’s premiere at New Capitol Cinemas in Masa was attended by Pharrell Scott from America who films African countries and their fighting spirit.
The Star’s story development is credited to N&M Productions’ Nikita Mokgware and Serene Serena who scripted the show. N&M Productions is an entertainment production company.
In absentia, was the director of the movie who is abroad for educational reasons. Mphonyana Mokowe was at the helm of The Star’s artistic and dramatic aspects, guiding the technical crew and actors in fulfilment of the show’s vision.