WAYS OF DYING is a classic South African novel, written by one of our most popular and prolific authors Zakes Mda. Originally set during the bloody ANC/Inkatha fighting of the 1990’s, Kenny, Raps and Jann have transposed this story to the xenophobic violence of contemporary South Africa.
It is the tale of Toloki, a professional mourner who thinks he knows all the ways of dying and right now the death business is booming. Tolokis monastic devotion to his work is keeping his belly full and his cellphone charged with more airtime than he could possibly use. On any given weekend Toloki might find himself wailing at four or five grave sides in just one day, not to mention the extra rounds of grief he puts out for the After Tears parties. His sad face, his watery eyes and his distraught re-telling of the last moments of the deceased will provoke tears from the coldest and most unfeeling bereaved.
Toloki’s commitment to his calling is all consuming - until he meets the beautiful Noria, who is struck dumb by grief after the death of her only child. Toloki is mesmerized by Noria and determined to discover the manner in which her daughter Dineo met her end, a mystery which unfolds over the colourful, magical realist course of the movie, putting Toloki himself in mortal danger.
Toloki has a magical power. He is able to enter images. To literally walk into them. He collects magazines and books so that he can travel into the places depicted there and for Noria he pastes photographs onto the zinc walls of the shack he builds for her, pictures into which he leads her by the hand so they can walk down dappled forest paths, warm themselves by the roaring fireplace of a mountain lodge and frolic in the waves lapping the sand before a perfect beach cottage. And this is how Toloki teaches Noria to live again.
The Young Tigers don’t like it. Nor does Shadrack, the spaza shop owner who lusts after Noria and cannot understand her attraction for Toloki over himself, a rich and strong Zulu businessman. When the Young Tigers attack again Toloki learns of the unspeakable way in which Dineo died and Noria faces a terrible test of her desire to live.
This is a tale of violence born of ignorance and fear. It is a tale of migrants and refugees seeking sanctuary in lands far from home and being met with fear and hatred and violence. Whilst set in the particular world of Durban, South Africa, it is a story reflected in communities all around our bloodied globe. Right now.
Above all, Ways of Dying is a story of life erupting and blossoming and continuing in the midst of and despite violence and death. d
Toloki will be played by the brilliant Kenneth Nkosi. Toloki’s homeboy – the funeral director Nefolovdwe – knows that souls cleansed by deep crying are generous with their tips and so he allows Toloki to hang around despite his bad personal hygiene and eccentric attire. Nef will be played by the incomporable Rapulana Seiphemo.
Kenneth and Raps years long friendship and collaboration with Jann Turner has produced the award-winning television series Mzansi and two of South Africa’s most popular local movies ever – WHITE WEDDING and PARADISE STOP. And lets not forget that WHITE WEDDING was South Africa’s entry to the 2011 Oscars for the Best Foreign Picture category.
Together, Kenny and Raps and Jann have developed an approach to filmmaking which honors the complexities of their stories, the languages of their characters and the richness of the cultures they depict.
So, to give this story the authenticity it deserves the filmmakers must secure the trust and co-operation of the people for whom the crowded, dusty informal settlements and hectic downtown streets and overflowing graveyards of the city of Durban are home. This Kickstarter will raise funds for Kenny, Raps and Jann to travel to Kwa Zulu Natal for an extensive location scouting trip as well as a casting and writing workshop in which they will finalize the screenplay and plan the shoot.