Inspiring People

Lindokuhle Mnyandu, Award Winning Film Maker

Lindokuhle Mnyandu
Lindokuhle Mnyandu is a Writer, Director, Producer and an Observer who lives and works in Centurion, Pretoria.

Born and raised in Umlazi, Durban. Lindokuhle studied Screenwriting with Gotham Writers` Workshop in New York City. He is currently finishing his studies in Drama and Film, and African Literature at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.

Lindokuhle's credits in film are many and he has worked in various aspects of film production including writing, directing and producing.

He founded MNYANDU FILMS, a film production company which focuses on producing documentaries, feature films and short films.

Controlling all aspects of production, from conception to completion, creatively and efficiently, Mr. Mnyandu wrote, directed and produced "a well-made and thought provoking" (Erik Gudris, Choices Inc., Los Angeles) film documentary titled, Bridging The Gap, his documentary about attitudes and perspectives of South African sojourners in the United States and what it means to be a patriotic South African. The film premiered at the Durban International Film Festival (June 15- 26, 2005), was screened at the Apollo Film Festival, South Africa (September 22- October 01, 2005) and was also screened at the Blue-November MicroFilmFest, Oklahoma where it won the Best Picture- Feature Film Award (November 04- 05, 2005).

MNYANDU FILMS is currently producing a documentary titled Families Under Attack, a film which looks at how illicit drug abuse, mainly methamphetamine affects families. Also in preproduction are two feature films; one about dynamics of the emerging black middle class and its behavior in South Africa, titled, Maar Why?. The second titled DEATH SENTENCE, is about rape, the sexual abuse of women and HIV/AIDS in South Africa.

Both productions are scheduled to slate towards the end of 2006.

Lindokuhle currently lives in South Africa with his wife and nineteen month old son.

Lindokuhle Mnyandu talks softly but he packs a lot of power. He is a proud of the work that he does and his hope is that the work that he does will start conversations that will lead to social change.

Lindo does a lot with limited resources but he has a sense of optimism and the kind of possibility that could change a whole nation for the better. Lindokuhle Mnyandu is inspiring because he doesn’t waste time complaining about what is not. Rather he spends his energy imagining –

what could be...

DR: So, tell me about your life and your work.

LM: My name is Lindokuhle but my friends call me Lindo.

I was born and raised in Umlazi, Durban. Umlazi is a township. A township is an area in South Africa which was formerly set up for black people to live.

Lindokuhle with his Mom and older brother
Lindokuhle with his Mom and older brother

I am from a family of four. I have an older brother, a younger brother and a sister. Three of them live in the United States. I have a wife and a nineteen month old baby boy.

I am working as a film maker trying to entertain, inform and enlighten people on social issues. I consider myself to be more of a humanitarian as opposed to just a film maker because I am more interested in the lives of people, their struggles, their happiness and their ups and their downs.

As a film maker I am more drawn to issues and subjects that are about humanity.

What else can I tell you?

DR: Tell me about some of your films.

LM: I went to a university in South Africa in Johannesburg, which is almost the biggest city in South Africa. I majored in film and in African literature. I moved to the United States in 2003 and we just came back in January of this year.

I managed to do a documentary when I was in the US about perspectives and attitudes of South Africans living in the US, on what it means to be a patriotic South African, whether abroad or at home.

When I left South Africa I had these preconceived ideas about America - that it was so heavenly and that it was a nice place for everyone in the world to go to. When I got there it was the other way around. The high expectations that I had, they became sort of "Oh, O.K. America. This is how it is." It wasn't what I expected. I thought that in New York, whenever I would turn corners, I would constantly be seeing celebrities…

What got me into doing the documentary is that I wanted to show people that life outside of their home places. I also wanted to show people from America what people on the outside think of them. I researched the film and I directed and produced it. I used family funds because I didn't have a budget for it but I felt the need and the urge to tell this story.

I started working on it in October of 2004. I was done with it by May and I entered it into a film festival in South Africa - the Durban International Film Festival. That is where it premiered. I also took it to one or two other festivals in South Africa and one festival in Oklahoma, the Blue November Micro Film Fest, where it won an award for best picture, feature film. I was really excited about that. It gave me added energy because people gave me recognition. It gave me extra courage to go ahead with what I have chosen to be -- a film maker.

I think what I have chosen is a good thing because people want to be informed and they want to be entertained.

That is what I am about.

DR: Tell me about the feature film that you hope to make?

LM: That came from a fresh idea that I got when I got back to South Africa.

I arrived back in South Africa on January ninth and I was observing things that had happened, things that had changed and things that had remained the same. I just observed the way that people were living their lives and the interactions between Blacks and Whites. I was observing these things and I noticed that a lot of changes have taken place since 1994. There is a new trend of this imagined Black middle class coming up and living in suburbia where we were not, as Black people, allowed to move into before. Driving these nice flashy cars, they are enjoying the benefits of being successful as Black men now in South Africa, and it occurred to me that these people are all about just showing off their wealth and what they have achieved. How about being responsible? I found that most of them were lacking in being responsible and helping others as they are coming along. They struck me as just being about what they are about and not caring about

"How can I help my brother or my sister?"

The idea was just to write out the story about this and see what happens.

I decided to write a story about a guy who lives in the suburbs with his woman. They have been together for about six years. They have a two year old baby girl. This guy has some weaknesses as far as his morals are concerned. He can't stick to one partner basically. This is what I have observed mostly with the imagined Black middle class - when you have money the only way to show it is to sleep around with girls and to drink and spend your money on alcohol. I see that also as a problem - alcoholism among the imagined Black middle class.

So I thought that I would have this character, my main character being the type of a person who somehow is on the right path but now and then he strays and has extra love affairs on the side, away from his main woman. I thought that I would put him in to different challenging situations to see what happens; what kind of issues will explode.

I also created a character that is a white woman. I wanted to portray somebody who is into consumerism; consuming fashion brands like the typical young people that you find in any big city. They are all about the big fashion brands and the places that they go to and the people that they are into. I wanted to use a white woman so as not to stereotype Black people.

I also created a homeless character. The reason that I included a homeless guy was to create an awareness among the people that we need to reach back and help others. Most people who end up without homes, are not there by choice. And even if they are there by choice, why can't you and I reach out and help them anyway?

We don't have to always give money, sometimes it is enough to just talk.

I observed it a lot in a city like New York that people are always busy and out and about and we kind of neglect the homeless. We walk over them and we don't even greet them. We don't even ask how life is. Something needs to be done. We need to help one another.

I believe that we all play a part in each others existence so that we all need to help one another.

So, the overall objective of my story is to try and explore the dynamics of the imagined Black middle class, not only in South Africa but anywhere else in the world. What we need to do as a people with this new acquired so-called wealth -

we can not be selfish.

When people are struggling, why do they stick together but when they are enjoying the benefits of the fruit they become divided?

I am trying to make the point that:

Just because we are reaping the benefits of the fruit of our democracy in South Africa, we don't have to be divided!

Come on!

The title of my film is Maar Why. Maar is an African word meaning "but".

Maar Why? "But why?!" Why do we do the things that we do? Whether we are cheating or not, helping or uplifting others -

but why?

I don't have answers but I am hoping that I will create the platform for people to debate these issues, because I have also observed in South Africa that there is no platform to talk about social issues.

Such issues need to be addressed.

Durban International Film Festival


Bridging The Gap
d. Lindokuhle Mnyandu, South Africa /USA 2005

What does it mean to be a South African living at this time? Is it about about just being proudly South African? This vibrant, uplifting and yet sobering series of interviews with young South African intellectuals captures insightful perspectives and attitudes around issues to do with what it means to be called a South African whether living abroad or at home. The film demonstrates that South African live in a place that most people in the world envy.

DR: Compare yourself to your main character.

LM: Man?

I call him "Man". You know why I call him "Man"?

DR: Why?

LM: So that he would represent everybody. I thought that I would make "Man" general, rather than making him someone that could be specifically identified with. I wanted him to be a voice that would represent everybody.

For me to associate myself with "Man" -

I would like to see myself being more helpful and being more supportive to my family. I didn't write this character so that I could debate my own life but I am able to draw from him. We as human beings, especially men, we need to just check our behavior. Just because we get money doesn't mean that we have to flaunt it around and do stupid things like sleeping around. We need to check ourselves and put our lives in order.

This is what I have drawn from this main character. If he has such weak morals, when I watch him I want to be able to check myself against who he is. I want to be better than that man. I want to be more supportive. I want to love my woman.

This is what I get from "Man".

DR: Do you consider yourself to be successful Lindo?

LM: Successful in what way? Material? Spiritual? Emotional? Successful in what way?

DR: Well, how do you define success?

LM: To me it is that feeling of peace that you get before you go to bed at night. It's about that feeling that "Oh! I did something good today." It's about the feeling that you get when you think "Wow! I might be able to help somebody. I might be able to get something done today."

For me success is about being productive. It's about loving work! I like to refer to Black people because I am Black. Most of us kind of shirk from work. I mean we like to work but maybe the slave mentality, where we would have to use passive resistance as our tool to show "Master" that we don't like the way that he is treating us, is still in our blood. Maybe that is still in our system.

For me being successful is about realizing that we need to work and be productive. Work is beautiful. We need to work to build a nation. It is not about money. Money comes and goes but that inner feeling that you get at the end of the day that

"Wow! I did something!"


at the beginning of the day

"Wow! I am excited about what I am going to do!" --

that is successful.

DR: So then by your own definition, are you successful?

LM: I would like to think that I am getting there. I am working at becoming successful.

DR: Would you say that you get inspired by who you are? Do you inspire you?

LM: I do! I do!

Its funny how, too.

Sometimes I will just be sitting and thinking and I will think "Wow! I never looked at this like that!" Then I will think "Why don't you do something about this?" That is how I get my inspiration by challenging myself to do something about something.

I also draw inspiration from what I observe. I am an observer. When you observe things you think. When you think about things your thought process leads you to other things, which makes you act upon those thoughts.

So I guess that I would say that I inspire myself but most of my inspiration comes from what I observe.

DR: When you consider your future and what is out ahead for you, what would you like to see happen?

LM: As a film maker or as a human being?

DR: Either or both.

LM:As a film maker I would like to see myself righting the wrongs that our forefathers have committed and also those that those who colonized us committed. I would like to see myself as a re-teller of history in the long run. I want to be someone who made some small change in society as far as emancipating the people. When I look back when I am old and gray I want to feel like I used the opportunities that I had to re-tell our history. Whether small or big, I want to play my part.

Maybe someday someone will pick up on what I did and build on it because I am not expecting miracles over night.

DR: What do you say to encourage yourself when you are dealing with set backs or obstacles?

LM: Obstacles are a pain. We don't need obstacles in life or -

maybe we do!

When we get stuck in those things we can't change, it forces us to look for an alternative.

I draw a lot from women and the way that the hierarchal system has tried to keep them down in societies. Women are so amazing. They always find ways to make things work. I admire them for that. They are God's beauty because they always manage to get things done regardless of the obstacles that are in front of them.

When I get into tough situations I always ask myself --

"What can I do to make sure that, after this door closes there is another one that will open?"

Just because a door is closing doesn't mean that every door is closing. It is just an opportunity for me to step up my game! There are always alternatives to things.

"Today might not be for me but, how about tomorrow? Let me wait and live until tomorrow comes and then see what tomorrow has for me. If tomorrow has nothing for me then I will wait for another day!"

As long as I live I will keep striving to overcome those things that threaten to keep me from living my dreams.

DR: A hundred years from now, what do you want to be remembered for?

LM: (Laughs)

I would like to be remembered as somebody who inspired a lot of people.

I want to be remembered as a guy who was never afraid of getting things done and who was never afraid of taking chances, who was always about what he was about and who always kept his word.

I want to be remembered as a guy that you could talk to if you needed help and a guy who loved people and who was true to himself.

I want to be remembered as a simple guy who came, who saw and who did things.

But, I really think that -

I will still be around in a hundred years...

Thanks Lindo!

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