Jahmil XT Qubeka: Caught in the director’s scope
He has gained a steady reputation as a director of highly stylized film. And having won awards at the Tri-Continental film fest and various others accolades Jahmil XT Qubeka is fast making a name for himself as one of South African cinema’s most interesting talents. We sat him down and spoke to him about film, his latest project and the obsession with the unusual.
What initially made you get into the film industry?
– I was five when I consciously watched my very first feature film, a spaghetti Western called The Unholy Four. It was love at first sight. After that for the next 13 years I consumed cinema. I was a walking catalogue of film. From old classics like Citizen Kane to the latest Hollywod junk. I even watched films no kid should have seen, like the banned version of Lady Chatterly’s Lover.
How was the transition from docie to fiction and how was the transition for you as a director?
– I never felt it to be quite honest. yes, doccies and features are different disciplines requiring a different skills set but for me it was all Cinema. As long as it was about telling a story using moving pictures I saw it all as movies. A lot of my documentary work has classic cinematic qualities that lean towards dramatic feature rather than cinema verite.
What was the defining breakthrough of your career?
– There are so many, as I grow as a filmmaker and more importantly as a person I keep experiencing what you term breakthroughs that surpass the significance of previous ones. As in life, you never stop learning in this business. If the education will continue until the day that I die, then so will the breakthroughs.
Working as a director what would you say have been the stand out moments in your carrer?
-Completing my first commissioned Documentary and screening it for an audience at the 3rd Encounters Film Festival all those years ago was cool.
-Having a documentary I made win the US Peabody Award was special.
-Co-Directing my first commercial with my mentor and friend Daron Chatz.
-Directing my first EDCON commercial for the Jupiter Drawing Room.
-Attending the Marche Du Film in Cannes with my film Shogun Khumalo is Dying.
-Getting distribution for a feature that I shot and produced, uMalusi to Ster Kinekor.
-Writing, Directing and Shooting my first feature film, A Small Town Called Descent
Lets talk a little bit about A small town called descent what was the inspiration behind that?
-For me it was a call to arms for the Xenophobic attacks that occured in 2008. Most South Africans didn’t have a voice or the means to express their condemnation of what happened. I chose to pick up my laptop and write.
As a filmmaker when making that type of film, how important is creative control?
-Its a double edged sword in my view. You want creative control because you want to fulfill the vision that you have. Also no one else is blamed for the shortcomings of a film aside from the Director, and rightly so. The pressure of maintaining your vision whilst dealing with the elements means that often ones own judgement can get clouded. Its also important that the filmmaker be humble enough to take feedback and input from others as they may see what he/she does not see at that particular time.