July 15th, 2009 13:18:00
Mark Lebenon's SLAM-BANG is a revelation: a violent, independent action-revenge thriller from South Africa with no overt socio-political agenda, and splitting black humour from the outset, as evidenced by the tongue-in-cheek tagline: "It will take more than guts to survive the day." Lebenon will be appearing IN PERSON on Wednesday July 15th to present the WORLD PREMIERE at 9:30pm in the Salle JA de Seve.
SLAM-BANG marks Lebenon's first feature, and it's even more impressive in that it was self-financed, with Lebenon calling in favours from industry pals in order to realize his bloody tale of a non-confrontational, pushover IT guy who is forced by circumstance to become a killer over a period of 24 hours.
George (Roland Gaspar, a stand up comedian in real life, not that you would guess it from his performance here) is having a bad day. His co-workers are piling tasks on him so they can leave early, his longtime girlfriend is on the verge of leaving because he's forgotten one date too many, and top it all off, a mysterious character called '˜The Chinaman' has just proposed rather convincingly that he steal information off a very large gangster's computer if he wants his girlfriend to live. The job should be fairly easy, right? Wrong. Before you know it George has blood on his hands, the information he's after is 'temporarily unavailable', and he's racing all over town, ducking from assassins and torture-happy henchmen trying to get it to the Chinaman while bodies pile up around him.
A major discovery in terms of both a talented writer/director and a relatively uncharted cultural context, SLAM BANG delivers the goods from start to finish; the frenzied pacing never lets up, and the tension keeps building up to the bloody climax, as our reluctant protagonist is thrust outside of his cublicled existence into the nihilistic, lawless world that shadows his own.
Director Mark Lebenon was kind enough to answer a few questions about the South African film industry, and SLAM-BANG's place in it.
The film's been compared to the work of Michael Mann – were his films an influence at all? Was Turk in the back seat a nod to Reservoir Dogs?
Being compared to him is an honor, I'm overwhelmed at the thought that anyone can compare our little film to a Michael Mann film. I wasn't consciously aware of being influenced by his films, but I've watched his movies hundreds of times and I'm a great fan. The Turk in the back was definitely a nod to Reservoir Dogs and another movie that was a big influence and no-one seems to pick up on, is Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia.
George is a very unlikely action hero. But at the same time he seems to have anger under the surface – how did you describe the character to the actor who plays him?
George is the type of guy that lets everybody walk all over him and he's always backing down, so the circumstances in the movie allow him to stand up for himself. We kind of decided that at a certain point George realizes that if he doesn't fight back he's not going to survive. At the same time we didn't want him to become an action hero, so it was a tricky part and I hope we got the balance right.
How active is the South African Film industry - can you tell me a bit about it?
There's a very solid and talented film industry in SA. A lot of foreign films are shot there using the local crews and facilities. There's also a strong wave of young emerging talent that's starting to develop and I think we're going to see a lot of interesting movies starting to come out of the country.
Many of the films we do see at festivals coming out of South Africa are more socio-political - we don't see a lot of straight-up action films. Are there a lot of these films made in South Africa serving a national market, that we just don't see?
Up until now, South African films have definitely been dominated by historical or socio-political movies, but I think the straight action and genre movies are starting to get made. Because of digital cameras and editing packages, it allows film-makers to get their ideas made and out there. It's possible to make a movie without regional funding bodies. Hopefully we see a lot more from SA.
What was the funding process like - are there regional funding bodies that will support a commercial genre film?
We funded the movie ourselves. Because of the type of film that it is, and it gets pretty extreme, it was difficult to raise money because people aren't used to these
films in South Africa and don't know what to make of it. So I hope this will convince them that there is a place for these kinds of movies to be made in SA.
What kind of release do you foresee for the film in South Africa? Will the violence and gore be an issue at all?
The movie isn't released in South Africa and I'm very keen to see the reaction there. It's a genre that is appreciated the world over, so I think it will go down well with SA audiences. What probably won't go down well with SA audiences is where we take the movie. It definitely is not for the feint hearted and has a twisted, macabre streak that won't appeal to everyone, not just SA audiences. And I think we're one of the first of these kinds of movies to made in SA that pushes it to this extreme.
Can you tell me a bit about your experience working with the Panasonic P2HD Camera?
The Panasonic P2 HD camera was perfect for us. We couldn't have made the movie on our budget without it. Because of the cards we saved straight to hard drives and didn't have to fork out money for tapes and the picture was full HD. The camera didn't limit us in any way and I know the DP loved working on it as well. It's definitely a camera we'll use again.
SLAM BANG plays July 15th at 9:30pm and July 16th at 3:50pm in the Salle JA de Seve
See the full film details, trailer, images and buy tickets on the film page HERE.