Siphiwe (SJ) Myeza-Mhlambi
The career of film director Siphiwe (SJ) Myeza-Mhlambi is on the rise, with Loerie awards and a trip to Cannes already on his CV.
He’s now the majority shareholder at 7Films, which he joined in 2015 when its owner, director Lourens van Rensburg, recognised his talent and became his mentor after Myeza-Mhlambi had studied directing and writing at Afda in Johannesburg. This mentoring, along with hard work and determination, saw him become an owner of 7Films in 2016, making it a black-owned company in a largely white industry.
His success at the Loeries came from a series of moving internet commercials called Chasing the Dragon. They were filmed for The Surf Shack in Muizenberg, which helps Cape Flats teenagers replace their addiction for tik with an addiction for surfing. “Chasing the Dragon was the first spot I shot as an upcoming commercials director,” he says. “I fell in love with the characters and their stories. I felt very connected to the themes of loss, addiction, and gangsterism — but that’s not the story I wanted to tell. All I did was listen and interpret the characters’ story into a language the world could understand, and that story became a story of resilience and hope. Their stories moved me, the people involved inspired me and I was honoured to give them a voice.”
The adverts won silver and gold at the 2016 Loerie Awards, making him the youngest ever winner at the age of 22.
His own story is also worth telling, as he was raised by his Aunt Lerato and Uncle Marcom Myeza after his mother died. “They took me in and made great sacrifices and supported me every step of the way,” he says. It’s important not to let your circumstances define you, he adds. “You are not a product of your circumstances, you are a product of your attitude. There are more great people that come from rock bottom than there are great people that come from privilege.”
He is also proud to be part of a non-profit organisation called Blackboard with Nkanyezi Masango and Tseliso Rangaka. Blackboard intends to push Cape Town’s creative industry to become more racially diverse, in order to make it more impactful. “The issue starts in high school. Most township students don’t consider creativity as a career path because they don’t know it exists. Our ambition is to change that,” he says.
— Lesley Stones