Akin Omotoso – Tell Me Sweet Something.

Tell Me Sweet Something is an authentic Love story. A Love story in the full sense of the word. I walked Into the movie at Nu-Metro cinema at the V&A Waterfront on a Sunday evening by myself and I walked out wishing I was holding hands with someone. The film is about two gorgeous young people who meet, fall in love and face challenges of their shared hearts. A story we all can relate too. With a star cast consisting of Nomzamo Mbatha, Maps Maponyane, Thomas Gumede, Thembi Seete, Thishiwe Ziqubu and Kagiso Lediga this film is on the pulse of young South Africa, adding Johannesburg as the aesthetic character it is a proud South African film that I thoroughly enjoyed. Writer and Director Mr. Akin Omotoso who I had the pleasure to sit down after viewing the film gives detail of why every South African’s should see this film. His passion for this story is Infectious. The film is in cinema’s nationwide. Lovers and friends please read, xoxo.
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Nthabiseng Mosieane:
You started working on the script of Tell Me Sweet Something since 2010. It’s a Romantic Comedy. Let’s talk about the genre and how dear is this story to you?

Akin Omotoso:
It’s very dear to me, not auto biographical in a sense not like that but more respecting the feeling. Like the film love Jones When I saw that film in the 90’s as a student I liked how it made me feel. I wanted to do something when someone gets out of a cinema they get that same feeling. The idea had been in my head for a while throughout my other projects. In 2010 the opportunity came via the African Women’s Development Fund, they had seen Jesus and the Giant and they liked Jesus and the Giant. At that time they could not give me money to fund a whole feature film so I applied for a grant, they gave me a grant. In November 2010 I brought in 5 actors we work shopped the idea and discussed how would it be like to shoot a love story in Johannesburg and in 2011 I received another grant from the African Women’s Fund and brought in another 5 characters that made it 10 and from there a lot of the ideas that are in the movie came from the workshop, characters like ‘Gordon’, Thomas Gumede was in the workshop and the practice of ‘Pie Thursdays’ and so forth. Then myself and Robbie Thorpe worked on the script from 2010 up until last year (2014).

NM:
It’s quite a process isn’t it? How does it feel seeing your vision on screen?

AO:
It’s really overwhelming. There were times when we thought the film would not be made because it was a tough film to fund; there was no real reference point except to say we think it could work. So on Friday night (the premiere) to see the sold out seats, to walk into the cinema and to hear people who have paid money, laughing and clapping, that’s quite something.

NM:
Your lead actors Maps Maponyane and Nomzamo Mbatha. Handsome and beautiful. They are newcomers in the acting scene and have made their debut to the big screen. What made you believe in them and have them play your primary characters?

AO:
It was an audition process; we were looking for the two parts when we finished writing. Someone had mentioned Maps to me back in 2013 and I phoned him and said I was working on a story and he should be on standby. After the call we met once or twice. I liked his head space I liked the kind of things he wanted to do but we never spoke about the film as I was still writing it. In 2014 he came in to audition and he was great, similarly with Nomzamo I had seen her on Isibaya. When it was time to audition many people said she should come in and audition. She came and she was great so it was really a case of me meeting them in the audition room and once they got the part we then had a month of rehearsal also with the rest of the cast members. So I got to know them a bit better as we were preparing to go on this journey together.

NM:
What I primarily appreciate in the film were the old real life couples. I loved that it added a real factor to love, what real love is about and that love is long lasting. What made you decide to put that element in the film?

AO:
For a number of reasons, the one you said, love is a long journey and as young people we sometimes forget, like actually if you feel you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody there will be push and pull but more importantly you very rarely hear our parents tell us about love and very rarely do we hear our black parents tell us about love. So for me we are beautiful people and we are capable of a whole range of things, it may sound silly but it is true and it’s a film about love, its romantic. It is not trying to do more than what it says it does. I go back to the feeling, like I just remembered how I felt after Love Jones. You must have a good feeling, part of that is putting in Images that have been absent from our screens so we need to put those Images out there so people can say ‘oh my mom is like this’ or ‘my sister is in this kind of feeling’, the Identification part. So we are seeing this young couple struggle through the begining of love and we see these old couples reflecting on love.

NM:
Something happens between them where Moratiwa is freed in a sense from her writers block. They go through different challenges where I doubted whether they could last. Love can be complicated.

AO:
Love is a walk, a journey. For me this is part one, how they met. I want to do a part two, ‘Tell Me Something Sweeter’ possibly (laughs)?

NM:
The film is screening in various parts of Africa as we speak. Will we see it go to International as well?

AO:
The film released on Friday, same day as Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe. We have been focusing on South Africa primarily because this is the biggest market. I wrote on my Facebook page that it is very rare you find an African film is seen throughout the continent. I know Viva Riva had done the same but not on one day. Tell Me Sweet Something was released on one day across the continent. It’s a quite a thing to think about it that tonight there is a screening in Nigeria. It’s quite surreal. As for the International scene, that is not our focus right now we will see. The whole team is really focused on, can we get our audience Into the cinema and enjoy the film? We will see how it goes.

NM:
I love the topic on love; I am such a hopeless romantic. What does love mean to you and do you feel that a part of what you feel about love has been depicted in the film? What do you want people to walk away with when it comes to love?
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AO:
I am a hopeless romantic too and I love, Love Songs. Put a great singer to a beat and you start feeling things. In the film I think those songs, especially Lerato’s song the ‘lovey dovey’ song. I remember being given the track. The song played in my car for a good two years, my Co-Producer had given it to me and when I heard the song, suddenly I just saw the movie. That song for me encapsulates the feel of the movie. So for me it’s the songs that represent a part of me. Also I am with the old folks, you have to consider a lot of things and you know some times in life someone may not love you back, for me its something like you have to work at it, beautiful love, you got to work it. That’s why in the film, it’s not easy, you need to show, prove yourself to the person you want. It’s a continuous work.

NM:
Why did you choose the city of Johannesburg as the third lover?

AO:
I love Johannesburg. Sometimes when I drive around Joburg, I see how good it looks. It’s amazing how cities can be used as Icons. I think of Amelie and La Haine they are both Paris but completely different depictions of Paris. In the same respect I wanted to shine a light on the other side of Joburg, the beauty, the love and light. Not the negative things, we need to shine a light on the other side and that was the challenge, let’s see the city as if you were in love with it. So when you think of it like that you are not forcing it. So someone is falling in love somewhere and in Joburg its happening. As a team we wanted to celebrate that.

NM:
The film for a second reminded me of a Woody Allen opening sequence like Midnight in Paris.

NM:
Yes exactly Also Spike Lee, he has such a great angle on New York. Joburg is beautiful, it was an opportunity for me to capture those Iconic moments.
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FB:
Why should South African’s see this film?

NM:
For all the reasons we spoke about. Are you in love with somebody? Take them. Take them to see the movie because it reminds you why you love that person. You want somebody to love you this is a good movie to start the discussion of potential love. It’s a date movie. I just also think we and when I say we, I would say South Africans need to also get back to enjoying good stories, as you said, its light its ice cream. If you like ice cream that’s what this film is you watch and you come out feeling good. Who doesn’t want to feel good? The title says it all tell me sweet something, you going to feel sweet.

NM:
Okay so just last words; Impart some words of wisdom to me, my readers and your fans.

AO:
I must say I am really happy that you’re like, you’re still on the case, you know what I mean? It’s really Inspiring to me, so you must keep going. Keep on keeping on. Its people like you that make it possible for people like me to exist because you get it and it’s your Generation that is actually going to move forward. I was actually saying this on the radio, I have been around a while and now with Instagram and the possibility that you can have your own page you can basically be your own broadcaster, yes it’s a tough market but technically speaking You are the commander of your Destiny and I am saying the fact that you have your own website, the fact that you took the time to watch the film, to Interview me, its good. When I was coming up it wouldn’t happen like that.
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So what I am saying you guys, Maps, Nomzamo. All of you, Cassper trying to fill the dome. This is a good time and the power is in your hands and I really hope you guys really take this country to the pinnacle of that it deserves to be and it’s because you guys are Interested in your country. There is a restless energy in the country among the young people. So what is the country we have Inherited and how can we make it a better place? Our generation we came at freedom. You guys are at a place where I think you can start to define. I don’t know, I just feel like it’s an exciting time so what I will say, I will flip it and say I am inspired by what you guys do and it’s really great.

That concluded our conversation. Sometimes it is great to go back to basics. I left Inspired and ever more in love with the beauty of Storytelling. Show love and support by watching this film and spreading the word.

Tell Me Sweet Something Facebook link

1 Comment

  1. Whose hand should I hold after this read?! Goddamit this is a beautiful read. I was engaged even emotionally. Ntabie what you are doing as AO said it.. Is inspiring and I love it…. You just told me sweet something.

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