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Suzanne Kay and Mark Bamford: Bringing the Cape of Good Hope to America

By Deardra Shuler

Suzanne Kay and Mark Bamford are two writers that met in Los Angeles, fell in love, married, and started a family. Nothing unusual about that, it happens everyday. However, the two joined forces shortly after marriage and co-wrote a short film which Mark directed entitled "Hero." As a result of the film, Mark won the Atom Films "Director to Watch" Award in 2001. "Hero" led the couple off on a world tour of film premieres and festivals that eventually took them to Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town was so beautiful, that after returning to Los Angeles, the couple made the decision to take a year off and return to Cape Town where they planned to perform volunteer work while writing their first feature film together. Their feature film, "Cape of Good Hope" is to be released in two New York City theaters: the Angelika Film Center, located at 18 West Houston Street and the Clearview Theatre on 62nd Street and Broadway on Friday, November 11, 2005.

Suzanne Kay grew up in a world of glamour and entertainment as the daughter of Diahann Caroll. She attended Columbia University in New York and earned a Master’s Degree in Journalism. She was an intern on the McNeil-Lehr News Hour on PBS, and eventually wrote news at CNN in Atlanta.

She moved on to become the Arts and Entertainment Editor for Essence Magazine. Familiar with the camera, both in front of it and behind it, she co-anchored ETV’s first entertainment program. She later scripted several Fox-TV sitcoms. Kay eventually turned her attention to screen writing and co-wrote the short film Hero with her husband. Presently the two are showcasing their first jointly written feature film in America, "Cape of Good Hope" which Mark directed and Suzanne produced. The film is about to be released in American theaters nationwide. Mr. Bamford who was born in Louisville, Kentucky, grew up in New York. He later went on to study art and dramatic writing in London and Paris. A cum laude graduate of New York University, Mark moved to Los Angeles where he became a free lance screenwriter. Having survived their collaboration of the "Hero" film," Mark, Suzanne and their two children returned to Cape Town, South Africa where they have taken up permanent residence.

"Initially the idea was to leave Los Angeles, write for a year, return with the finished script, and shoot it in America. However, after having taught English to refugees escaping civil war in the Congo and Rwanda during our first year in Cape Town, we saw how important the work was so decided to stay. We began working on our feature film. As events unfolded and we got to know diverse people, we decided we wanted the film to reflect the human side of South Africa" remarked Suzanne.  And indeed the film does.

Since it has been 10 years since Apartheid ended, CAPE OF GOOD HOPE highlights life in South Africa as seen through the lives of three women of various races during the 10 years Apartheid has been defunct. Though the rigors of Apartheid has left its mark on South Africa, this film tells the story of the triumphs and challenges of a country and people striving to change the course of their destiny in the hopes of forging a new land and new people. Cape of Good Hope is a film that shows that love takes many forms while having an effect on all living forms. This film will make you take a deep look within the human psyche which touches upon our human frailties, challenges, and prejudices. But it also offers the hope that there is the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and move toward fashioning a better world.

Cape of Good Hope touches on the life of a Black South African woman; a Colored South African Woman and a White South African woman. Each is brought together through a series of events that shows that while there is a small group of White South Africans who still hold on to their prejudices, not all white South Africans, do. It also demonstrates that there is bad and good in everyone and no one race is perfect. The Black South African woman is portrayed by Nthati Moshesh (Lindiwe) who is a television, film, and stage actress in South Africa. Her character Lindiwe is a woman who seeks to improve herself by attending school. She is an intelligent woman who knows her own mind. She works as a domestic while attempting to avoid the unwanted advances of her white employer Nick (Stephen Van Heern). Lindiwe lives in a two room dwelling with her mother and young son Thabo, performed by up and coming actor Kamo Masilo. Thabo is an industrious lad who has trained his dog to do many entertaining tricks. Both Lindiwe and Thabo fall in love with Jean Claude, an educated refugee from the Congo, who is well versed in astronomy but forced to work as a janitor. Jean Claude is played by Paris-based Eriq Ebouanay (who is also known for his role as Patrice Lumumba in the film "Lumumba"). Jean Claude provides the father figure that Thabo needs and love interest to Lindiwe. Lindiwe’s mother (played by Lillian Dube who appeared in Cry, the Beloved Country) is prejudiced by Jean Claude’s immigrant status and therefore seeks to encourage her daughter to marry the local preacher played by South African actor Yule Masiteng.
The second woman, Sharifa, is a Muslim and member of what was known as the Colored category in the film. The role is played by stage and television actress Quanita Adams who is married to Habib (comedian David Isaacs) in the film. Both Habib and Sharifa are desperate to have a child and in the end prove that love has no barriers.

Newcomer Debbie Brown (Kate) is the white woman. Kate is rather cynical and owns the dog shelter that unites all the characters. Kate’s low self esteem is also reflected in her mother Penny (Clare Marshall) whose character has married several times and whose latest fiancée Bruce (Greg Viljoen) is even younger than Kate. Kate has problems choosing men wisely and initially spurns the attentions of Doctor Morne (Morne Visser) who is attracted to her. Each character struggles to overcome their fears, judgments, and insecurities in order to find love and self determination. Their individual turmoil supplies the catalyst that makes Cape of Good Hope a very poignant and humanistic film.

"Africa is made up of many diverse cultures," remarks Bamford.  "We experienced many of these cultures in Cape Town which is a very cosmopolitan city." Suzanne and I began to write about the various groups within Cape Town which under Apartheid had been divided into separate groups. This caste system was very harsh on the non white population. However, 10 years after Apartheid, Blacks are now reaping the benefits of education, jobs, job training, and Affirmative Action.  There is a lot of social planning going on under President Mbeki.  South African Blacks and Colored are now attending top colleges for free and affordable housing is being built.  I would say that there has been more housing built in South Africa within the last year, than has been built in America in the last 50 years.  There is a great deal of improvement in terms of electricity and water as well. In a situation where 80% of the population was below the poverty line, now the government is putting into effect proactive plans that are bringing about a rapidly emerging middle and upper class that include Blacks, Muslims, and Indians.  Naturally, it can’t happen overnight but what has already been achieved is remarkable. South Africa is attracting investors and its industries are growing by leaps and bounds, even the currency has doubled in value against the dollar in the last two years. The South African economy is growing about 5% a year. Also, though interracial couples are scarce in South Africa, Suzanne and I have never experienced any negativity from either white or black" continued Mr. Bamford.

"South Africa in the last 10 years has changed rather quickly and non-violently" commented Suzanne. "It has been an amazing thing to see that the transition has been done without violence. But it is too soon to assume that prejudices don’t still prevail. There is a lot still to be done and that will take time. Also, the film industry has become very strong in Africa. There are not yet as many independent films such as our film, but its happening. Commercials and the bigger films are presently being filmed predominately because South Africa has a diverse terrain and you can shoot a movie in Africa and actually make it look like it was shot in New York. Cape of Good Hope is comprised of only South African actors, some who came to experience their first leading role through this film" explained Suzanne.

"You know Apartheid was a very oppressive system. There were many people who were too afraid to do anything about the rigors of the system because those that tried were imprisoned. That applied to Whites as well as Blacks and Coloreds. A lot of people went to jail and many were killed, especially black people," remarked Mark. "These days, White South Africans, are very aware that the world views South Africa as a racist country so many are very eager to change that perception."

"We wanted to show the positive side of the people of South Africa and how people are merely living their lives as human beings. In some cases, we used subtle reminders of the old regime via the dogs in the movie. We used the dogs as a metaphor and reflection of what was going on in human lives. For example, there was a dog in the film that was trained to hate blacks and some talk about mixed breeds and pure breed superiority similar to what went on via the Apartheid idea of racial superiority. However, the main focus of our movie was not to harp on Apartheid but to show the human side of South Africa as it is today" stated the couple.

Cape of Good Hope is an independent film that has won Honorable Mention at the Toronto Film Festival as part of the People's Choice Award and the Jury Prize for Best Film & Audience Award for Best Feature. This is the first time in the festival's history that the same film has been awarded both prizes.
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE is a must see movie that will have audiences leaving the theater feeling positive about who we are and can be as human beings. Go see it!

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