The tricky question of lobola is at the heart of a delightful new comedy releasing in cinemas on 1 March 2013. ‘Fanie Fourie’s Lobola’, a contemporary romantic comedy about love and tradition in a rapidly evolving society, looks at what happens when Fanie Fourie (Eduan van Jaarsveld), an Afrikaans guy and Dinky Magubane (Zethu Dlomo) a Zulu girl, fall in love and have to navigate their way through the complicated process of the age-old African custom of lobola.
Although their relationship begins as a bit of a joke to annoy their irritating families, soon Dinky and Fanie find that they are bonded by their feelings for each other, a shared sense of humour and a desire for something more than their parents’ expectations of them. But as they navigate their way through lobola their relationship falls apart.
Negotiating lobola – the process when a man or his family pays a certain amount to the bride’s family in order to obtain the right for the man to marry their daughter – can be a recipe for disaster in even the best of circumstances, which these certainly are not. The film explores how two families who come from entirely different cultural backgrounds can find a way to make the negotiations work.
“In both Afrikaans and Zulu cultures, family comes first,” says producer Kweku Mandela. “Fanie has to go along with a member of his family to negotiate an agreement. Naturally, his relatives have no idea where to begin, so Fanie takes along his khaki-clad uncle and the family’s trusted gardener Petrus. In the tradition of lobola, Petrus has no personal interest in the negotiations and only wants to do the best for Fanie and his future wife.”
Cows and cash are equally prized when it comes to lobola, but many modern families today choose cash simply because of convenience. In the film, Dinky’s father Dumisani – played with much aplomb by the legendary Jerry Mofokeng — demands 30 cows from Fanie for Dinky, with some very funny results, given that he lives in a township and not on a farm.
From Dinky’s point of view, lobola is an outdated custom and she has many conflicting emotions around it. An aspiring businesswoman with a mind of her own, she finds the whole process a little distasteful. But the traditionalist Dumisani insists on it because it is intended to create a bond between the two families – that of the bride and of the groom.
“What makes lobola so important for him is that it is based on mutual respect and dignity, and through the process, the love between the man and woman is expanded to include the immediate and extended families,” says Mandela. “But, like all traditional customs, it is open to abuse and distortion in the modern world and Dumisani himself proves to be a little greedy.”
When the negotiations collapse and Fanie is sent packing, his mother welcomes him back to the fold, telling him that lobola has taught him he is not African. In a heart-rending moment, he responds, “If we’re not African, what are we doing here?” Finally seeing what Dinky means to her son, Louise encourages Fanie to try to win her back.
Filled with humorous but hard-hitting social commentary, ‘Fanie Fourie’s Lobola’ was inspired by the book of the same name, written by Nape à Motana. A Sepedi, he writes the book from an Afrikaner’s perspective, and deals with the subject of inter-racial relationships with humour and candour.
The film is the first from Once Upon a Story, a script development initiative headed by veteran industry leader Paul Raleigh and Janine Eser, which aims to take great South African stories to the big screen and the world. It is directed by Henk Pretorius (‘Bakgat!’, ‘Bakgat! 2’) and is produced by Out of Africa Entertainment, the production company behind ‘Schuks Tshabalala’s Survival to 2010’ and ‘The Bang Bang Club’.
Official website: www.faniefouriemovie.com