DESIREE MARKGRAAFF AND LULU HELA MZANSI’S INFLUENTIAL WOMEN IN FILM

Lulu Hela is a key member of a production team on one of Mzansi’s most-watched telenovelas, Gomora. Award-winning filmmaker Desiree Markgraaff is on the verge of making history by being behind what is tipped to become Africa’s most expensive production yet.

While both are among a special category of accomplished women in the film space, their individual accomplishments have seen them work on productions that have gotten Mzansi viewers on the edge of their seats.

After Gomora made its small screen debut on March 30 this year, the telenovela smashed viewership records and at one point, was reportedly the most watched telenovela with 2.5 million viewers.

Set in Alex, Gomora is the story of a woman, Thathi, played by Katlego Danke, who had it all. She had managed to escape the impoverished streets of the township, but now finds herself thrown back into that life after the death of her ultra-rich husband, Mbongeni (Themba Ndaba).

In her capacity as Series Producer both on Isidingo and Gomora, Hela runs an internship programme for young female filmmakers who aspire to be in the television and the film industry.

“Working on the set of what became the most watched telenovela has been part of my exciting journey in filmmaking and I am particularly honoured to have worked with talented cast and crew,” says Hela, the founder of Hela Media. “But what has been a game changer was being given a platform to showcase my skills and this is why I use my access to upskill aspiring young female filmmakers as well.”

At the DStv showcase just over a week ago, MultiChoice announced that the epoch-making Shaka Ilembe is now in pre-production. Markgraaff, who has also worked on hit TV productions including Isibaya, Yizo Yizo and Jacob’s Cross, among others, is set to play a huge part as a producer of a series that will document the life and times of Zulu King Shaka Zulu.

“The most important thing for me is that while I ensure that we continue to produce captivating content, I also want us to keep nurturing local talent and telling local stories with authenticity,” says Markgraaff. “I will always value the opportunities and platforms like Mzansi Magic, who have allowed us to tell our stories to the world.”

Nomsa Philiso, Channel Director of Local Entertainment Channels at M-Net says: “Mzansi Magic has a rich heritage of not only telling stories that our viewers resonate with, be it through our telenovelas or reality shows. But most importantly, we pride ourselves of having opened up the industry to women in the film industry, like Lulu and Desiree, among many others, who have used their pens and cameras to narrate the best African stories to Mzansi viewers and the world.”

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