An interview with one of the producers of Fanie Fourie’s Lobola

Lance Samuels produced the wonderful South African film Fanie Fourie’s Lobola which is now coming to the United States—something very unusual for a movie from this nation.  I loved the film and highly recommend it.  Additionally, Mr. Samuels has been involved with the production of a wide variety of television shows, feature films (such as The Bang Bang Club and is currently in Canada working on a mini-series.  Below are excerpts from our recent interview:

Martin Hafer: Where are you from originally?  I know you are now in Toronto…

Lance Samuels: I am from Johannesburg, South Africa but have been here in Canada for some time working on a film project.  The people here have been very lovely but I really love Johannesburg.

Martin: I read through your IMDB profile and I noticed that you’ve done quite a few projects but the biography portion says absolutely nothing about you.

Lance: My gosh…maybe I should talk to my publicist about that.  As far as the credits go, many of those TV shows are international and can be seen in many places—especially in the UK.  I am not sure which shows have made it to the States.

Martin: Well, as far as your new movie goes [Fanie Fourie’s Lobola], it’s great.

Lance: Thanks, I appreciate that.  When we set out to make the movie, we wanted a South African movie.  We then entered it in some festivals and we started winning all these awards.  It’s been amazing to see the reaction to the film internationally—particularly in the States.  I was lucky enough to be in Seattle when it won the Golden Space Needle Award for best film at the Seattle International Film Festival as well as Sedona where it won the Audience Choice Award.  This isn’t chosen by judges but by the people attending the festival and this is the award you want to win.  It shows how the film will be received by audiences—and it’s the correct way to release a movie like Fanie Fourie’s Lobola.

Martin: Your film was like a breath of fresh air…it was so different from most of the films out there.

Lance: We really wanted to make a feel-good movie.

Martin: Other than the work you do for film and TV, what are your passions?

Lance: My passion has always been films.  When I was a kid, all the other kids were interested in sports but I would go to the 10 o’clock show and stay all day—and that, to me, was a perfect Saturday.  And, lucky for me my wife is also in the entertainment industry.  It’s part of our lives.  Now I do like sports but my priorities are family and the business.

Martin: I thought you might like to know that I have been working like mad on your film.  Your publicity people only contacted me a day or two ago—asking me to review the film AND interview you as well as Zethu Dlomo (provided I like the film) !  I would normally never agree to do all this except that I absolutely loved your film and I felt it was important that it get publicized as much as possible.  But, because I loved the movie so much, I almost feel like I should thank you for making the film.

Lance: Oh … thanks.

Martin: You might want to know that very few South African films ever make it to the United States.  How did you arrange that?!

Lance: It’s so funny how this industry works.  We ran the movie in South Africa and it did well.  And then, our distributors sent the film to some festivals and it started winning awards and literally within MINUTES of us winning awards, the phones started ringing!  It was almost like one of those fairy tale stories.  However, it’s not exactly a theatrical type release—a Hollywood style blockbuster…

Martin: Yes…it’s much more of a date film—a feel-good movie.

Lance: Actually, not many movies make to America from around the world—so we are very, very lucky.

Martin: What was your job as the producer?

Lance: There were three producers—one was the writer of the film and the other my partner.  We optioned the book, found someone to write the script, finance the script, work on the physical production of the show and then the distribution of the film.  That’s pretty much from the time the concept is thought about until it’s on the screen—it’s sort of like producing a baby!

Martin: So how did you divide up your work?

Lance: Well, it just happens—we all worked well together.  The financiers were also good to work with. We were also lucky that everything seemed to work well with the picture—the weather was cooperative and it was completed on time.

Martin: Any funny tidbits that the readers might like?

Lance: The scene at the end.  Where the cow takes a dump on the guy’s shoes, the actor was willing to do what he needed to for the scene but we just couldn’t get it right.  We had to film it 13 or 14 times—with shit being poured on him every time.

Martin: Was it real?!

Lance: Oh yes!  It’s very difficult to make cow dung look like real cow dung and that was real!

Martin: Ewww.  I hope he got paid a bonus for all that!  What are you working on now?

Lance: A six-part mini-series called The Book of Negroes.  It’s based on a famous Canadian book and will be shown on BET in the States and BBC Canada.  We’re filming in Nova Scotia.  It’s about how slaves made their way to America as slaves and how they eventually escaped to freedom in Canada.  The title comes from the name given to a book that listed each slave—and each slave had to put their mark in the book.  After that, we’re filming a mini-series on Nelson Mandela.  That should take us through the end of the year.

Martin: Thank you very much for all your time and the best of luck with your American release of Fanie Fourie’s Lobola—it’s an amazing film and it’s nice to see that everything is working out so well for all of you.

Interview by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer

Image courtesy of Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images