Q&A with Cast and Director of I Am All Girls

Article by: Mmamodise Mphuthi        Interview  by: Naiwa Sithebe

Firstly well done, the production Is brilliant, thank you for this offering. When you watch the production there are a lot of silent moments,  why was it so important to have those silent-speaking moments?

  • Donovan: I actually want to ask them (Hlubi and Erica), how does it feel playing a scene that doesn’t have dialogue, how do you approach that as opposed to one that has dialogue? 
  • Erica: obviously it frees you up a lot as an actor because you are not bound by dialogue so you can colour-in quickly in terms of density, saturation and complexity. You can colour-in the fullness of the scene. I think it was a choice made in editing because obviously in the original script there was dialogue.
  • Hlubi: I think sometimes, so much can be said when nothing is being said. I find that the nuiances of not having dialog, we had to really explore not only what the characters were going through but also how people were gonna read through that. It’s very much intentional from the directors. We know that because there is no dialogue, we must be specific in how we want people to interpret those moments. As much as we like the verbal, I think it gives so much space for imagination of your interpretation of those silences because they are different from the next person. That’s the beauty of being a real participant in the film, you are part of the story and not just watching. You can create your own interpretation of what’s going on between these two women, which is more where the silence happens. 
  • Erica: on a philosophical point of view, when you look at the topic, the theme and act of “human trafficking”, it’s so awful, so terrible and so disgusting that sometimes there are no words to really flash that out. You can fill in logistic words or practical words but in terms of the intensity of the emotion, how do you converse about a child being stolen and molested and raped repetitively? There are no words to justify or to make sense of that sort of an act.
  • Donovan: on so many scenes we had dialogue, I always challenged that and asked “can you give me that emotion and feeling without this line”? And you can actually do better than that and give complexity and play off the other character. It’s exciting and I liked doing it that way. When you remove the dialogue, you go straight into the emotion. I feel like dialogue is just a cherry on top because when you remove it then you go straight onto the emotion. 

The production is led by these two amazing ladies (Ntombizonke and Jodie), we know the industry struggle of letting women take lead, we’ve seen the common “Damsel in distress” productions, but here we see these women in their glory, why was it so important to present the story this way? 

  • Donavan: I don’t think I overthought it, the idea of telling the story through two powerful female points of view and even have those two points of view in conflict with each other as they have very different ways of dealing with this problem but I deeply connected in a root sense because of their outrage for what is going on. I thought that as a lens was really interesting to me, I hadn’t seen that movie before, and I was able to make that movie. It was great, always looking through that lens made it fresh for me.

The story is set post apartheid, there’s this unspoken love interest between the two ladies, was there an intention to flirt with the rules because it was never a clear cut of what this was or meant – what was the intention of this?

  • Donovan: the whole movie plays an ambiguity. You never know who is who or what is what. I liked the ambiguity around this relationship. In my head, because I had to know for sure, these ladies were lovers but there was a tragedy behind that love affair so they could never consummate that love affair properly because of the worlds they found themselves in and in conflict a lot of the times around who was doing all of these murderings and the secrets they held from each other. In my mind they were lovers and I like the fact that the audience couldn’t be sure. For my test screenings, some people were shocked to find out that they were lovers. Some thought they were friends and others thought lovers and that’s nice. That makes an interesting screen viewing experience and not spoon feeding the audience by telling them what to think, you are letting them decide.
  • Erica: I also liked the flirting with the idea and also the fact that its cross racial. I was proud of the film that for once, the race issue wasn’t lifted. It was about another issue – human trafficking.
  • Hlubi: I don’t know why people are so focused on that, whether it’s true or not. For me and this movie, it’s about love being an expansive emotion that heals what these women are going through as individuals, we are enriched by the love and we are liberated by that. Yes it’s a love affair but how you wanna box it is up to you.

What were the learnings from this production?

  • Erica: With every project you work on as an actor there’s a little slither of something that you learn because of the emotional theme and topic, I learned to surrender as an actor to the process and how to trust your fellow actors and just lean into a moment –because its so emtional you’re not sure how its going to play out, the less you control the better work you do. You need to prepare a lot, be professional and let it all go. For me this was a proper learning school, surrending creatively, trusting the creative process, trusting the actors, trusting the story.
  • Hlubi: That women are formidable, that when we want something to get done we get it done, a point of view is a point of view and nothing can shake that, this world would run a lot better if women were in charge because things would get done as Jodie and Ntombi have showcased to us. You will die for the course and these women have demonstrated that, taking things into our own hands. 

Mothusi Magano (Captain George) and Brendon Daniels (Officer Samuel Arends):

What do you guys (Mothusi and Brendon) think about the production?

  • Mothusi: I love the production, the film, especially the 3 leads are phenomenal and I had a great time shooting it.

What made you want to be a part of this production? 

  • Mothusi:  the character was different from a lot of the characters I did, it was non-antagonistic. It was quite refreshing to play a family man. 
  • Brendon: I think it’s dangerous if you stick to what you would normally do and not challenge yourself. We just had a lengthy discussion as to how insecure we are and how we continuously learn and hone our craft. It’s necessary to emphasise, it’s not just that you are bringing it and you are doing it, it’s an ensemble work and it’s not about how brilliant I am but how we are telling a story of this particular scene. Are we giving it as the ensemble? So, to all those out there aspiring, it’s all about understanding that you are a part of a safe environment where you are allowed to make mistakes because you can go to take 2, take 3. But if you really want to hone this craft, you need to challenge yourself and I think this production asked that of us because the narrative is important but also what are you willing to do to go to the truth of that character.

You touched on insecurity, how does the element of insecurity come in when you have so much experience? 

  • Mothusi: I don’t know about you (Brendon), but I embrace the insecurity because like he said, it keeps you learning, it keeps you growing, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Brendon: it’s because we are genuinely passionate about what we do. It’s not like I’m selling a tin of coke over the counter and once you have parted with your money for that, now I don’t care whether you’ve enjoyed the coke or not. I actually want this piece to touch you like you walked in here and you went “I relate with you people”. That builds our confidence to take on the next project with our insecurities because we are afforded the opportunity to go and search for those characters.

Brendon you made an anology using coke… on this production, what was your coke factor or moment? 

  • Brendon: there’s a scene, of the landing and take-off of an aircraft and because of the budget that we had, we could actually afford to do that and the fact that we did not have to comprise on the shooting of that scene and that it actually happened because the stakes are so high – if that plane takes off, those kids are never coming back and we could actually do that scene and that was the coke moment. 
  • Mothusi: My action scene sequence running out of the train. I don’t get to do action a lot so when I do, it’s quite fun.

What message do you hope for the world to find or discover in this production? 

  • Brendon: that there are good people in South Africa, there are good men too – specifically.

The good man that you are referring to, would this be Captain George and Officer Arends? 

  • Brendon: yes 100% because there are good cops. We tend to, because of news , we tend to view all cops as corrupt which is not the truth. But it’s not just about speaking about cops, it’s about everyday working men and unfortunately we listen to things like, we as SA men we don’t love our wives, we don’t look after our families. Yet, all the men that I know  and my role models tend to do exactly that. 

We know the industry struggle of females not getting equal opportunities, as established males in the industry what are your thoughts about the females on this production taking lead? 

  • Brendon: Progress.
  • Mothusi: I was raised by a single mom so to me they are two lead actors who happen to be female.

The story is heavy, how did you manage to breakaway, be okay and get back to it? 

  • Brendon: I think it is important that we don’t forget that even the guys who were playing the antagonists, we were on set with them and you need to understand that they are also there trying to play to the truth of their characters. Interacting with these people who are going to steal the kids, was my way of debriefing because I’m a person who loves to touch and hug. There is a physical element that is required because we are gonna go into a dark space. We are social beings so it does help to interact between takes, with the guy who is gonna kidnap the girls, so that you don’t stick in that place and it doesn’t sit with you. Different actors have different ways of going about their craft but I think it’s very dangerous if you isolate yourself and you stay in character. Some actors can do that and get out of it easily. I would fear for me to be in a space where I’m just focusing on what my character is doing. It would be difficult for me to break out of it. I like to be Brendon in between takes, Brendon at lunch because as SA actors we don’t necessarily have access to go unpack the character, because you have to go to the next job, so I have to find mechanisms to make it light for myself and be aware that I need to break out of it. 

Another take on Silent moments: In the production there are moments without dialogue but you can feel, sense and get what is happening, how were you able to achieve those moments?  

  • Brendon – I think as South Africans we tend to have that thing of wanting to come in with lines, but if you are afforded the opportunity to go explore those silences, it’s quite interesting to see what happens after take 3, 4 and 5. That is where you will find that particular quality. Dialogue or no dialogue, it’s about listening and letting it lend. You should REACT and not be ACTING. I am a big lover of silences. There is so much that can be said without it being said. 
  • Mothusi: only 30% of human communication is verbal so you have to be highly attentive to the person you are interacting with, just take it from there, sometimes the silences are a lot louder. 

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