Levi’s Pioneer Nation | An Interview with Lebogang Rasethaba

Lebo Rasethaba Levis pioneer nation photographer Matt Mundell (1)


Lebogang Rasethaba is a uniquely defined South African filmmaker who not only resonates in creative freedom but in a whole lot of charisma too. He will be one of the modern day Pioneers to engage with the next generation of aspiring creative industry leaders at the Levi’s Pioneer Nation festival, which is happening on the 25th of September in Braamfontein.


Instead of waiting around for anyone or anything to realise his goals, from the get go he went out there and did what it is that he wanted to do. A few years later, this now accredited documentary filmmaker’s recent work is headlining articles all over the country!


Having worked with filmmakers both locally and internationally, Lebo’s experience in filmmaking extends far and wide and he is able to approach his work with an interesting perspective and chooses to do so with a lot of integrity.


Leading up to the Pioneer Nation festival, we spoke to Lebo to find out more about his master craft and to gain some insight as to what being Lebogang Rasethaba is all about.


At what age did you consider a career in film making, and how did it all unfold?


I don’t think there is a single point; it was more of a long drawn out process. I am naturally creative and super inquisitive, I grew up asking too many questions. I was always writing, drawing, acting as different characters, in university I studied film making as a discipline, I watched lots of films, I wrote about them, I loved them, and then I started making them.


Can you highlight some of the milestones in your career that have brought you to where you are today?


In university I made a documentary about xenophobia; it was the best film in the class because it was clever and grown up and dealt with real issues. Fast forward a few years and I am China; I made a film about Africans living in China called “Sino”. It might have been the first film with that kind of a perspective, you know, a film about Africans made by an African. That’s my favorite work of all time. Nothing compares. Future Sound of Mzansi and Prisoner 46764: The Untold Legacy Of Andrew Mlangeni, my most recent films that are doing well internationally are just affirmations of years of hard work and personal development.


Who are your industry heroes globally, and why do you look up to them?


It’s all people I have worked with, good friends of mine who are making waves in their respective creative communities. Jonah Schwartz a New York native based in Tokyo has shot music videos for some of your favorite rappers. He was the first genuine videographer I met. We met in Beijing, he was visiting and I was based there but we were shooting the same, a small documentary about Damon Dash visiting Beijing. His was infinitely better than mine; I learnt so much from him. Rene Eckert is someone else I have worked with who taught me how to tell beautiful stories, deep and culturally astute, digital cinematic mastery. He made one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen with just a 7d and zoom recorder. That’s basically how I made both my films, which are both enjoying some love in the international circuit.


Lebo Rasethaba Levis pioneer nation photographer Matt Mundell (4)


Tell us how you manage to keep motivated when a project does not work out the way you had planned?


I watch “Burden of dreams”. It’s a film Les Blank made about Werner Hertzog when he was making Fitzgeraldo. People almost died on set and he persisted. Sometimes I read Gil Scot Heron’s last interview. He talks about how he watches “Rumble in the Bronx” when he feels down and uninspired. Other people’s stories of how they got out their slumps sometimes help me get out of my slumps.


What does it mean to you to be a Pioneer?


I don’t think I am a pioneer. I think Spike Lee is a pioneer, I think Ousmane Sembene is a pioneer, I think Fela Kuti is a pioneer. To be honest I just work hard and mind my own business. Maybe that’s my thing, I don’t worry what people in my field are doing, so I don’t allow external forces to determine my path. I don’t care who is doing what and why, I don’t compare myself to anything or anyone, I’m really just focused on my own development.


What kind of sacrifices do you make in order to meet the clients’ demands?


I think the point is that clients, like you and me, have a job. And their job is to sell stuff. And maybe creativity isn’t the thing that always sells products – basic needs sell products; dirty clothes sell washing powder, not necessarily my clever creative ad. Creativity doesn’t create a need, it creates emotions, you see where I am going with this?


Do Pioneers have down time, and what do you do in yours?


I play golf, I nap, I read, I like to run, I play soccer, I like photos on Instagram, I watch rom coms and cooking shows with my girlfriend, I hang out with friends and family.


Lebo Rasethaba Levis pioneer nation photographer Matt Mundell (11)


In the direction that the SA film industry is heading towards, what is important for aspiring film makers to look out for?


Two things – freedom and ownership. 1. If you know someone with a DSLR camera and a computer to edit, you can make a film. Don’t wait for anyone or anything, we live in an era where the means of production are readily available. 2. Keep and archive everything you shoot, it’s a piece of history. I just made a film and I had to buy pieces of our history from British and American photographers, it was so disheartening.


Relating to the content of your work, how would you describe your style or aesthetic, and what influences this?


My shots are very simple and honest, I exercise restraint when I shoot, I am not trying to trick anyone, it’s about me, a machine and a small slice of reality.


If you could make a film with anybody in history, who would it be and why?


Wong Kar Wai. He made some of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, flawless storytelling, multiple cinematic glories, caked in layers of emotional complexity, cultural case studies, moments of precise historical incision, a thoroughbred genius.


What can we expect from you at the Pioneer Nation festival?


Go in with zero expectations, so you won’t be disappointed.


What are your plans going forward ?


I am just looking forward to sharing Future Sound Of Mzansi with the nation. We have screenings lined up in October so go like our page on Facebook and check out the dates for the screenings. Yes, I just did that.


See some of Lebo’s work on his website, and stay up to date with him on Twitter.


Lebo Rasethaba Levis pioneer nation photographer Matt Mundell (12)

Lebo Rasethaba Levis pioneer nation photographer Matt Mundell (2)

Lebo Rasethaba Levis pioneer nation photographer Matt Mundell (13)

Lebo Rasethaba Levis pioneer nation photographer Matt Mundell (5)

Lebo Rasethaba Levis pioneer nation photographer Matt Mundell (7)


This interview was conducted by Matthew Mundell as part of a collaboration between us at 10and5 and the Umuzi Photo Club’s #P50 students, who interviewed and photographed a selection of creatives who will be representing at the upcoming Levi’s Pioneer Nation Festival.


Pioneer nation


Between 10 and 5