Sunday, December 6, 2009


So this is the place where the production company has set me up for the week. It’s a country lodge called The Guinea Feather, about a fifteen-minute drive to the town where they shoot the Chanda and Mrs. Tafa home and street scenes. So peaceful. Here’s another shot, this time from the top deck of the outdoor dining room.

Daniela Ramin, the Producer’s Assistant, flew into Jo’burg last night by way of Turkey. Sam Radebe the production driver, and I picked her up at the airport, and then the three of us drove the three hours to Groblersdal, Mpumalanga over some absolutely stunning territory. Among the sights, the Loskop Dam.

It’s the day off, so nothing was shooting. We dropped by the house being rented by Supervising Line Producer Martin Hamer and a few of the sound and camera guys. Techies are the most dedicated people in the world, able to work fifteen to twenty-hour days for weeks on end. Martin showed me some unedited footage of Chanda with Mr. Selelame, and the scene where Lillian (Mama) leaves her children in Bonang to go to Tiro.

For those of you who don’t know Chanda’s Secrets, Lillian is the mother of sixteen-year-old Chanda and her two younger siblings. She has HIV/AIDS, but rather than shaming her children by dying in the neighborhood, she travels north to die alone at her family’s cattle post. When Chanda realizes that her mother’s sick, and what she’s done, she travels on her own to Tiro to bring her mama home to die in peace and dignity, surrounded by the ones she loves. The movie is set against the pandemic, but really, it is a story about the love of family, the fear of shame and stigma, and the courage and hope of living in truth.

The scene I was shown was unedited, and spoken in Pedi (aka northern Sotho). It didn’t matter. I was in tears. Little Soly and Iris were the very picture of kids who know something big and important and grownup is happening, but are afraid to ask what it is. Chanda -- played by an extraordinary young find from the village -- was the perfect mix of uncertainty and strength. And Lerato Mvelase, a well-known film and television actress here in South Africa, blew my socks off. Absolutely devastating. So quiet. So simple. Nothing overdone. Her silences were eloquent beyond measure, her eyes filled with pain, apprehension, loss and love.

I meet them all tomorrow outside “Chanda’s house” where they’re shooting some street scenes. Will keep you posted. In the meantime, I’m going to try and get some sleep. Aside from me being excited, it’s summer in subSahara, which is to say IT’S HOTTER THAN HOT!!! And, while beautiful, my country cottage is without air conditioning. It does, however, have mosquitos (I’m on malaria pills). It also has three species of frogs, that are each trying to out-croak the other. One sounds like our typical North American bullfrog. The second like a cafeteria full of kids blowing high-pitched bubbles in their milk. And the third like the crickets of the Apocalypse on crack.

But hey, you can’t have everything, and I must say at the moment I’m one helluva happy camper! (One final shot: the nearby market with stalls for hundreds of yards on both sides of the road.)

UPDATE: The film adaptation of CHANDA'S SECRETS is called LIFE, ABOVE ALL and will premiere as an Official Selection at the 2010 Cannes International Film Festival.


  1. please, sir, I want some more.

  2. Hope Smith (, January 09, 2010

    Wow, Your making a movie!!Our class at Delhi District Secondary school just got done reading the book and i would love to go see the movie!!When"s It Coming Out??