Swaziland - Batjele (Tell Them)

Transmission date: Wednesday, 3 September 2008
Language: SeSwati with English subtitles

Sir just messed with the wrong girl!

A powerful film set in the foothills of Manzini. To expose an abusive teacher, a young Swazi girl must stand up against a community that doesn’t believe her.

Story synopsis

The school hall is abuzz with excitement. The headmaster has made a special announcement. The annual speech contest this year carries a full bursary.  Nkululeko, a young girl whose mother battles to make ends meet, is especially pleased. She really wants to win this contest. And so does Sizakele, her archrival and the cleverest girl in the class. When Mr Mthembu, her English teacher, offers to help with her speech, she is delighted. But his promise is a trap and he sexually abuses her. Devastated and broken, Nkululeko does not know what to do or who to turn to. Mthembu has warned her to keep ‘their little secret’ or else. Can she fight back? Will Nkululeko find the courage to tell and expose him before he preys on someone else? 

Producer: Thembumenzi Mabuza

*Thembumenzi explains why this film is groundbreaking in Swaziland

‘This film is groundbreaking for three reasons. It is the first film produced regionally in Swaziland by Swazis. Secondly, we expose an issue that no one wants to talk about openly. In this film we are showing exactly what is happening in a school environment. We try to address the issue to stop it. And thirdly, I’m a female producer and it’s my first time producing a short film.

The location was challenging – the principal asked that we should try and work quietly in a school – something that was impossible, because filming on its own disturbs the whole community!

The training was so helpful to me, because it was my first time to go through a professional scriptwriting process. I was also working with professionals - the consultants who helped me. I was able to be part of the scriptwriting of my film and I understood every part of it, and I was able to own my own film.

When I started the production course I was able to bring out what I’ve been learning on the scriptwriting process.

The TV industry in Swaziland is still very small. We have two stations: one is a public broadcaster, Swazi TV and one is privately owned, channel Swazi.

There are no professionally produced films or drama in Swaziland. This film has created a big hype in Swaziland and everyone is waiting impatiently to watch it.’

Director: Samkeliso Nxumalo

*Samkeliso on making the film and the problem of student/teacher affairs

‘It’s a film made by a first-time director, working with first-time actors. It was a big first for everyone that was involved. For me it was just a large learning experience. Everything was almost new, so it was thrilling but it was scary at the same time.

The highlight was the actors’ performances. I didn’t know what to expect with first-time actors who had never stood in front of a camera before, never done acting at any level and this is a difficult script. It’s a story about a girl being sexually abused by a teacher, so it’s got a lot of internal emotion. I thought it was going to be a huge task for first-time actors. I think what they gave was far more than what I expected – I was impressed. 

The broader social message is simple: teachers having sexual relationships with high school girls is wrong. It is something that shouldn’t be and when it happens, we need to speak out against it. Punitive measures need to be taken.

This is a story that happens a lot in Swaziland. This issue has hardly been addressed in TV and films or other media. It’s almost as if it has become a cultural norm. We just go about our daily lives as if there’s really nothing wrong with it. So this tackles an issue that is a very real issue in the context of our country. It’s something that was happening during my time as a student.’

Bio

With top grades and international scholarship offers, Samkeliso, now 31, could have chosen any career. In 2001, he graduated from the American University in Paris with a double major in international communications and European cultural studies, which included some exposure to the film industry.

After much social and family pressure and some deep soul-searching, Samkeliso decided to follow his instinct and started his own video production company. Since 2002, his company has produced a variety of material, including music videos, documentaries, promos and TV magazine programmes. On these productions, he has served in a variety of roles, namely directing, camera work, editing and scripting. Batjele is his first drama production.

Writer: Masuku Welile

Bio

Masuku (30) was born in Manzini, Swaziland, and completed her Diploma in Journalism at the African Literature Centre in Zambia. She returned to work as a TV reporter in Manzini before studying for her BA in Dramatic Arts at Wits University. She has continued to work in production for Swazi TV. She would also like to establish her own production company and work as a presenter.