by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) Award-winning local director, Zwelethu Radebe (@ZwelethuRadebe), talks about his arresting short film for SAB, Vuka, and balancing creativity with the constraints of commercial messaging.

Q5: Could you talk us through the concept — and construction — of Vuka?
Zwelethu Radebe: Vuka, the original idea birthed by the creative agency Joe Public, looked at exploring the effect alcohol abuse has on adolescents, particularly how it impacts their behaviour. The film begins in an audition room where five boys are auditioning to play the role of Tebogo Sibonelo. The boys and the viewer are unaware that the casting scenes in which these boys star stem from the director’s real-life experience — he is Tebogo Sibonelo. This shocking revelation is what drives home the film’s message of not repeating the mistakes Tebogo has made as a result of being exposed to alcohol from a young age.

Q5: Vuka makes the viewer uncomfortable on a visceral level. How do you, as a director, create that feeling?
ZR: As a director, I always try to find the human truth in the moment, or scene, and exploit it as best I can for audiences to be convinced that what they are watching is real. I love to make things feel real through cinema.

Q5: In sharing people’s stories, through commercials or other media, what would you say is most important for the creative team to keep in mind?
ZR: I think the most-important thing for a creative team to realise is that everyone involved wants to make a beautiful film; no one wants to kill the dream or vision. I think communication and collaboration [are] pivotal in sharing stories through whatever medium of motion picture — TV commercial, film etc.

Q5: How do you balance creativity with the constraints of commercial messaging?
ZR: I think it’s in the very nature of advertising to communicate a message. The importance lies in how it’s translated and communicated. There are creative ways of doing that… and not so creative ways. It’s a constant search until it resonates with the targeted market. This is something I try [to] solve in the treatment phase and, once I find it, communicate it to an agency and use it as a theme for the commercial.

Q5: Finally, what career goals are you hoping to check off the list, going into 2020?

ZR: A goal I’ve set for myself, regardless of time, is doing work I’m not necessarily known for, such as a CGI piece that complements and enhances a human truth in a narrative form or a narrative-based car commercial.

See also


Carey FinnCarey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to, her new regular column “Q5” aims to hone in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with experts in media, marketing and design.

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