Los Angeles-based South African director Phumi Morare is making waves in the industry with her short film, “When the Sun Sets” (original title “Lakutshon’ Ilanga”), shortlisted for a 2022 Academy Award.
An alumnus of Dodge College at Chapman University, where she completed her MFA in Film Directing, she is a strategist freelancer at Statement Films, a company that prides itself on nurturing the talent of African women content creators.
Her background in investment banking at Goldman Sachs in London has become an invaluable skill-set in film financing and strategy for her role in management consulting at McKinsey & Company.
The writer and director’s short film is set in apartheid South Africa in 1985.
Filmed in SA, the story centres on Lerato (Zikhona Bali), a young black nurse who, despite their indigent background, takes care of her siblings.
And when her brother, who is a young activist, doesn’t return home after school, she does everything in her power to save him from an unthinkable fate in a hostile climate for people of colour.
Her resilience shines through as she navigates a maze of upsets, which tugs at the heart as it revisits a time in SA’s history where violence underpinned the struggle with the ruling government determined to stay in power at any cost.
The short film has received critical acclaim at several film festivals and won a gold medal at the 2021 Student Academy Awards as well as the 2021 HBO Short Film Competition at the 2021 American Black Film Festival.
It is a 2021 Student BAFTA Award nominee, and fingers are currently crossed as it has been shortlisted for an Oscar in the Live-action Short Film category.
Miriam Makeba’s “Lakutshon’ Ilanga” is the aptly selected song used in the opening and closing credits of the short film, which also features Aphiwe Mkefe (Anele), Thembekile Mathe (Khanyi), Awonke Mtonjana (Thabo), Quinne Brown (head nurse Marie), Lumkile Mkwalo(as the teacher), Morne Van Jaarsveld (as cop Jannie) and Ryan Angilly (as cop David).
Interestingly, Morare’s other short film, “Why the Cattle Wait”, is also making a noise. It was selected for the 2021 Berlinale Talents Durban program and the 2021 Tribeca Chanel Through Her Lens Women’s Filmmaker Program.
Last year, Amy Jephta’s “Barakat” was SA’s official submission for Best International Feature by The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) for the 94th Academy Awards, which will be held at the Dolby Theatre in LA in March.
The film centres on Aisha Davids (Vinette Ebrahim), a Muslim widow, who attempts to mend her fractured family over Eid-al-Fitr, where she also plans to inform them of her new romance.
Of course, given the tenuous bond of the family, the well-intentioned act suffers a melodramatic setback.
Right now, Morare joins Gavin Hood (“Tsotsi”), Ralph Ziman (“Jerusalema”), Jan Turner (“White Wedding”), Neill Blomkamp (“District 9”) and Craig Foster (“My Octopus Teacher”) among an extensive list of SA talent, who’ve either won or received nominations for the Oscars.