Ralph Ziman: I am fascinated by
true stories. For me they make the basis for the most interesting kind
of storytelling. Real people in extraordinary situations. The edges of
human experience and films tht take you to real places that you may not
actually want to go to. I am particularly interested in how people deal
with these situations on a human level. I haven’t really ever thought
of myself as a film maker that wants to be considered ‘socially
conscious’. I think that I am more interested in the humanity. I do
like films that are character based and character driven and that
provide actors with an opportunity to do amazing
Do you feel
influenced by the work of Michael Mann in particular - visceral
stylisitics with factual storytelling?
Yes, really like Michael Mann.
I like the way he deconstructs stories and shows you the process.
How everything works. I like his use of complicated, intricate
storylines, unusual exotic choices of music and a shooting style that
gets the adrenaline pumping.
encouraged by the recent success of fellow South African directors -
Gavin Hood and Neill Blomkamp especially?
It’s really great that South
African film, music and arts are finally finding their place on the
world stage. I think that we will see al ot more like this in the years
to come. Both great films.
looking to follow in their footsteps to Hollywood feature films?
I’m not necessarily looking for
a ‘Hollywood’ career. I want to make interesting films, subject
matter that engages me. I’m happy to work in Hollywood if I find a
project that I feel I can connect with.
Were you aware of using a criminal icon as
the basis of the narrative, and the risks this may pose?
I was aware of the risks posed
and the kind of criticism that it would draw. I did feel that to get
under the skin of crime in South Africa, it would be interesting to see
it from the criminal’s point of view, as opposed to the point of view
of say a cop.
What lengths did you go to for 'realism'?
We worked on a very low budget.
Everything is real; everything is shot as we found it. A lot of the
police footage seen in the film is real police raids in Hillbrow. We
used off duty cops as extras and they wore their own uniforms. Hillbrow
is as is. The apartments we shot in where as is. We did not stop
background traffic in our shots. Our crew and cameramen where all from
documentary backgrounds. We also worked with a linguist to make sure
all the language and dialogue where completely authentic and tailored
to the individual actors.
did you watch during the production as a point of reference?
While we were in production
there was no time. We shot six days a week, fourteen hours a day. It is
only really work and sleep and on the off day I worked with the editor
and reviewed footage.
are you with the finished outcome? How has the film been met in your
I think as a film maker, any
creative person really you are always critical of your work and feel
that you could have done things better. I was very heartened by how
well the film did in South Africa and the response we got. The film
played in cinemas for six months and did incredibly well on DVD. I have
been told that the ultimate compliment for an African film is how much
it is pirated. Suffice to say by this standard it was a big hit.
I’m working on another script.
Also a modern day South African crime saga, but very different form
Jerusalem. I am also developing other films with writers and