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South African’s first Venda-language feature film, “Elelwani”, will run at Rosebank Cinema Nouveau in Johannesburg from 1 to 7 November 2013, prior to its official national release on 31 January 2014.

This is to ensure that the film qualifies to be in competition for the 2013 South African Film and Television Awards (the SAFTAS).

The film, directed by Ntshaveni Wa Luruli and based on the novel by Titus Ntsiene Maumela, tells the story of Elelwani (played by TV star Florence Masebe), a young woman who left her rural village for the big city, where she has completed her studies. She’s been offered a dream job in Chicago and she’s engaged to Vele, the love of her life. The two set out on a drive to her village, intending to tell her parents of their plans to marry and spend their future together. After their arrival, Elelwani is blindsided when her parents reveal that her hand has been promised to the tribal king, Torn between a glowing future and familial duty, she initially rebels, but finally consents.

What follows is a cinematic initiation into the culture of the Venda through an ethnographic thriller infused with the tradition of oral storytelling. Shot against the glorious green backdrop of the Thohoyandou area of Limpopo, incredibly beautiful images and a disturbing plot combine to create a film inflected with magical realism. Ntshavheni Wa Luruli, himself a Venda deals maturely with a sensitive topic and the tale comes to a complex and grounded resolution.

“‘Elelwani’ is a unique film and an important milestone in South African cinema history,” says Helen Kuun, CEO of Indigenous Film Distribution, which is distributing the film locally. “Not only does it provide a window into Venda culture, but it’s also a well told tale that is beautifully shot, with solid performances from the lead characters. We are confident that the film is likely to win awards, which is why we want to ensure that it is eligible for the 2013 SAFTAS by exhibiting it in November this year. The SAFTAS celebrate creativity, quality and excellence in South African film, and ‘Elelwani’ is definitely a movie that we can all be proud of.”

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