“I was only involved in the whole Heartlines project for one day, but I must admit the good South African story telling and the good values I have learned on set, is something I will always hold dear to my heart. I was really an interesting take on things, especially of what my country is going through.”
Cindy Lee – Director
When Cindy Lee first heard about The Other Woman, she didn’t get angry, or even scream, as other women might have – she cried.
Because the script for the Heartlines movie bearing that title touched her so.
So Lee, daughter of South Africa’s foremost agent Moonyeenn Lee and director of commercials, agreed to make her first full-length movie. But only with the help of Lance Gerwer, who shot the Oscar-winning Tsotsi.
“I was really nervous as it was my first film and the production company wasn’t doing this project to help first time directors so I had to be very sure that I could do it,” says Lee. “I decided that only with the right person working beside me, could I do it.
“I asked him [Gerwer] if he would shoot it for me. If he said no, I would take it as a sign and say no. If he said yes, I would… I never really imagined he would say yes. But he did. So we went into preproduction.”
Lee says one reason she jumped at the opportunity to direct The Other Woman – which stars Rosie Motene of Generations fame – was because it provided her with a chance to “work with actors and guide their characters through more than a 30 second debate about washing powder”.
The second reason was the film’s “very strong message”.
“The film is very moving and has a very strong message. Compassion is something we all need to have and it’s not something that can be bought or sold. It’s who we are and without it we will never reach our full potential,” says the winner of a Multichoice Vuka award for best public service announcement in 2003.
It’s also, says Lee, exactly the type of message she is always trying to get across. “Films that make you cry…laugh…stand up in your seat and yell at the screen. No matter what I direct it has to be a well written story about people.”
Lee’s first film was Ta Ta Ma Chance which won best movie in the Quickies 2 competition. In 60 seconds, it told the story of a struggling couple who have just realised they have won the lotto, but, in their excitement, knock over a candle, burning the winning ticket. Her second project was the Vuka! commercial for Women And Men Against Child Abuse that won her the award in 2003. Despite her experience of directing, Lee says filming The Other Woman was a new experience. Apart from waking up at 4am five days in a row, Lee had to adapt to shooting scenes non-sequentially.
“It took more concentration than I’ve used in 34 years combined,” she says. “My first scene on day one was the last scene of the movie, so I had to be very certain of the characters and their arcs.” But she never questioned whether she was doing the right thing.
“I was inspired from the word go,” she says. “The actors inspired me, my director of photography [Gerwer] inspired me, being on set inspired me. Getting the shot inspired me.” The film even became a family effort to some extent. Lee’s mother, Moonyeenn, helped her cast her movie – drawing from her large pool of talent.
Lee eventually decided on Motene for the lead of Refilwe, a successful advertising executive who finds herself having to look after her ex-husband’s dying mistress.
“Rosie was perfect for the part, and given her character background it made perfect sense that she would not be fluent in an African language. I believe that it actually worked for us that she spoke English and tried to speak SeTswana as the story progressed. She was very professional and I learned a lot from working with her,” says Lee.
She said the rest of the cast – Mmabatho Mogomotsi, Mncedisi Shabangu, Mike Huff and Noxolo Tshabangu – was also strong which allowed her to make the movie she wanted to.
“I am never really happy with anything I do and always find fault in something…but I think that the editor Megan Gill cut a great movie and we had a lot of really talented people who all worked very hard to make a great series of films, so if I am put on the spot I would say that yes, there will be a few tears.”
ROSIE Motene sometimes found it difficult getting into character for her latest movie. She had to pretend to not like children, learn to speak a new language – and drive through crime-ridden Hillbrow at midnight, in a bling-bling BMW with a R500000 camera strapped to the bonnet.
But she wouldn’t change a thing.
Because Motene believes the Heartlines movie “The Other Woman”, will help make South Africa a better place to live.
“South Africa needs a project like Heartlines to get us talking about the things we see as taboo,” she said. “It’s therapeutic to talk and express ourselves about things like abuse – in all its forms and levels. We have to start saying ‘This is who we are and this is who we need to be’.”
The former Generations actor said Heartlines – a project aimed at getting South Africa talking about its values – embraced values she holds dear: compassion, respect and forgiveness.
“I used to hold grudges, but my hearts been opened up these past few years. Forgiveness is perhaps the most difficult to embrace,” said Motene who supports People Opposing Women Abuse and Childline after being in an abusive relationship.
Motene said one of the most difficult things about her role – that of hot-shot advertising executive Refilwe forced to take in her ex-husband’s HIV positive mistress and children – was shooting on location, especially Hillbrow in the dead of night.
“It was nerve wracking,” said Motene. “It was just myself and Tshegofatso Khunou, who plays one of the children in the movie, in the car [a BMW she had to drive through Hillbrow], and there were a few drunk people who tried to mob us.”
But Motene said she still preferred working on location rather than out of a studio.
“There’s an authenticity when you’re on set on location. It’s a rich experience. I loved shooting in Bertrams and getting to meet all types of people, in all their diversity and versatility.”
Another difficulty was having to learn Setswana. “I almost didn’t get the role because of the language issue. I had to work with a dialogue coach and get the accent correct,” said the English-speaking actress.
And yet another was “coming to terms with the character’s initial lack of compassion” – especially regarding Refilwe’s reluctance in accepting her rival’s children.
“I love children and was very accepting [of one of my ex-boyfriend’s children]. While on set, the director Cindy Lee, had to remind me that my character wouldn’t be so embracive of the children so early on in her character development,” said Motene.
But watching someone die of AIDS was unfortunately not one of the things that Motene has no experience of.
Said the actress: “I personally witnessed someone very close to me pass on in that way. Playing Refilwe brought up some of that pain.” – Heartlines Features
- Running Time: 52min
- Release Date: 2006
- Rating: PG13
- Genre: Drama
- Language: Setswana, English, isiXhosa
- Director: Cindy Lee
- Cast: Rosie Motene, Mmabatho Mogomotsi, Mncedisi Shabangu, Akin Omotso, Nxolo Tshanbangu, Mike Huff, Ryan Flynn
- Written by: Michéle Rowe
- Editor: Megan Gill
- Director of photography: Lance Gewer
The Other Woman can be bought as part of the Heartlines 8 films – 8 values set.