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Friday, October 13, 2023

Kuda Jemba reflects on first SAFTA for directing the latest season of Kelly Khumalo’s reality show, looks ahead to moving into film

South African-Ugandan film director and producer Kuda Jemba won a South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) for directing the most recent season of the hugely popular and topical season reality show, Life with Kelly Khumalo. 

The reality show documented Kelly’s life during the period in which she was the talk on Mzansi due to controversy around her being implicated in the ongoing Senzo Meyiwa trial and the release of her eagerly anticipated album, “Voice of Africa”.

“Generally, I feel incredible and like I’ve just walked on the water you know,” said Kuda. “Getting recognition and validation for the hard work we put in as a team is a feeling I can only describe with a sports analogy because it's a team sport and we worked like one. I feel like Michael Jordan’s iconic buzzer-beater.”

This win marked Kuda’s very first SAFTA and is the culmination of a hugely successful year that also saw him acknowledged as one of Mail & Guardian’s top 200 Young South Africans.

For Kuda, looking back at directing the show, the prospect of directing his very first reality show was a daunting challenge that he relished. “Technically I would say it was a bit challenging at first not being able to plan shots and a few other things a couple of days ahead, but with this, I gained experience of thinking quickly on my feet and always being ready.”

He also shared what it was like shooting the show amidst all the public noise. “To be honest with you I couldn’t really block the noise out because it was helping us curate content for the show, It was advantageous to us that we were getting all that coverage.” 

“Working with Kelly at the beginning, especially since it was my directorial reality show debut, was a bit challenging because I had to come to grips with the reality show medium and how different it was from the world I came from where I had time to plan shots a couple days before.”

“The show pretty much covered what was going on in her life I just wished we could have dedicated an episode to Kelly and her sister rekindling their relationship. It was a beautiful watch and I wish we could have shared more of that moment with the world.”

The show was up against some very stiff competition in the category of Best Reality Show, including… [please add here]. When asked what gave his show the edge, Kuda said, “I feel what might have given us the competitive edge was, from her past 2 seasons that ended with a sort of cliffhanger I honestly think that with season 3 we ended it off on a good note with the family back together and it showed some character development from her reality show arch. So it did not just look beautiful but felt right and resonated with a lot of people.”

Initially found his way in the industry by working with some of the biggest musical artists in the country on their music videos through his production company, Chopped and Screwed. 

Now, with years of experience having worked on an award-winning reality show, commercials, and various other productions, Kuda is now looking to expand into the film industry. When asked what’s next, he said, simply, “The big screen!”

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