As the world’s most awarded single malt whisky, Glenfiddich knows a thing or two about being at the top of their game – and what it takes to get there. A series of written interviews, topical articles and video conversations on Between 10and5 identifies 7 forward thinkers in art and culture to discuss their careers, breakthrough moments and what they predict for the future of their industries.
First up we’re introducing filmmaker Lebogang Rasethaba. After realising that his passions lie outside of traditional TV commercials, Lebogang co-founded Arcade Content as a division of Egg Films specialising in brand films and music videos. As a result, he’s been able to employ the style of shooting that comes naturally to him while maintaining the backup of an established production company – a recent outcome of this arrangement is the futuristic music video he directed for Sibot and Okmalumkoolkat’s sonic collision ‘Nice Shandees‘. Another of his tremendously successful endeavours is Future Sound of Msanzi, the feature length documentary Lebogang directed with Spoek Mathambo to explore South Africa’s rich electronic music landscape. More recently, he completed the historical documentary Prisoner 46764 about the untold legacy of freedom fighter Andrew Mlangeni and this too has enjoyed international acclaim, with screenings around the world. In the Q&A to follow Lebogang shares more about using his work to showcase South Africa in a positive light and the importance of telling stories that people can identify with.
Were you always aware that you wanted to pursue a career in film, or did it take you a while to discover this?
It’s something that developed as I became more mature as an individual, a storyteller, my interpretive abilities heightened. Growing up, I was very expressive, but in a really juvenile kind of way. Filmmaking is very serious; it comes with a lot of responsibility. When I made my first documentary 10 years ago, only then did I realize this is what I want to do. Before then I was just too impulsive.
You started out as a commercials director at Egg Films and have recently launched Arcade Content as an offshoot of this. How is it different from what you were doing before?
I actually started out as an independent videographer, just missioning around on my own accord, shooting cool shit and putting it up online. That caught the attention of Egg and then I started making commercials. I learnt a lot making commercials, technically and the exposure to the skill and talent out there. Arcade is me going back to where I started but with the backing of my experience in advertising, from a technical and infrastructural point of view. So Arcade is me putting out work that is of commercial quality, but done super guerrilla style, the way I work best.
‘Future Sound of Mzansi’, the feature length documentary you directed with Spoek Mathambo, has been getting a lot of worldwide attention. Why do you think that what you’ve captured in this film is so captivating to a global audience?
I think it’s about representation, it’s about portrayal, it’s about optimism…the film is celebration of what’s good in South Africa, a counter-narrative to representations of South Africa, or Africa that global audiences rarely, if ever, see.
Now you’re gearing up to shoot a second instalment of ‘Future Sound of Mzanzi’. What will you delve into this time?
We want to tell a story with more resonance, we learnt a lot from the first film. And now we are better filmmakers, so we want to explore that growth by telling a bigger story.
What sort of adjustments do you have to make when switching from the advertising world to directing something like a feature film or a music video?
When making documentaries you don’t answer to anyone but your own artistic and narrative sensibilities. When Spoek and I made Future Sound Of Mzansi, we were only accountable to each other. In advertising, there is agency, there are clients, there is client service, there are CEO’s, marketing directors; the chain of command is extensive. You just need to be aware and respectful of that.
What, in your opinion, makes a story worth telling?
Resonance. People should, on some level, be able to relate with what you are talking about. That’s why Future Sound Of Mzansi is so good, because it’s not just a film about music, it deals with real life.
Do you find the process of creating something more rewarding, or is it the final outcome that you’re after?
I don’t learn anything from outcomes, I am very process orientated. There are no real challenges in outcomes are there? I am working on a short film right now and the demands from the process have been so intense, I got so anxious from the pressure to deliver that I literally fell really ill.
Is there a specific project you’ve worked on that stands out as a personal favourite?
As I said before, my work belongs within a certain context. They answer the question “what does South Africa look like at this point in time?” No one film is better than the next, its about looking at them as a body of work you know, looking at them next to each other and clocking how they represent a time in history.
What is your directorial style or approach?
I want to make work that is selfless; I want to make films that don’t glorify me, but connect concepts and realities, exploring ideas in their purest form, as something good, something positive. But the irony is here I am doing all these interviews.
What are you influenced, inspired and informed by?
Being one of many people telling the story of the African renaissance, working within a broader framework as part of a community where one day people will look back and see me as someone who left an imprint on society by framing it within a particular lens.
What is the most significant thing you’ve learned throughout your career so far?
I haven’t accomplished anything.
What excites you about the creative industry in South Africa at the moment?
All the young people who are hungry to be heard, who aren’t afraid to tell their own stories, and don’t accept foreign ideas of themselves as a benchmark, people who are self-aware and aggressive about who they are.
What else are you currently working on and working towards?
Delivering world-class work, but defining what world-class means. The standard of measure for what’s good is something that’s defined externally, that’s really a fucked system. I want to make films that are celebrated for what they are, and not try to fit into a pre-existing mould.
Look out for Lebogang sharing more insights soon in conversation with Between 10and5’s Uno de Waal in Glenfiddich The Art of Individuality web series.
Photography of Lebogang by Darren Gwynn.