JOHANNESBURG — One of South Africa’s top film producers squinted at a monitor as a hush settled over the crew. Cameras zoomed in on an actress playing a dealer of fine art — chicly dressed in a pencil skirt made from bold African textiles — who offered a coy smile as an old flame stepped into her gallery.
It’s the opening scene of a new Netflix movie about high-powered Black women, wealth and modern city life in Johannesburg — one in a flood of productions from a new generation of South African filmmakers. They are bent on telling their own stories on their own terms, eager to widen the aperture on a country after a generation of films defined by apartheid, poverty and struggle.
“We call it the legacy exhaustion, the apartheid cinema, people are exhausted with it,” Bongiwe Selane, the producer, said a few days later in the editing studio. “The generation now didn’t live it, they don’t really relate to it. They want to see stories about their experiences now.”
one of the most unequal in the world, where wealth is still concentrated mostly in the hands of whites and a small Black elite.
But in recent years, the country has also undergone major demographic and economic shifts. The first South Africans who grew up after apartheid are now adults, asserting their voices on social media and in professional workplaces. And a growing Black middle class has been eager to see itself reflected onscreen — and showing it with their wallets.
box office expectations for locally made romantic comedies.
A year later, “Happiness is a Four Letter Word” — the prequel to Ms. Selane’s latest film that opens with the art gallery scene — outperformed several Hollywood releases in South African movie theaters on its opening weekend.
The movie revolves around three bold women navigating a new South Africa. There is Princess, a serial dater and owner of a trendy art gallery; Zaza, a glamorous housewife having an illicit love affair; and Nandi, a high-powered lawyer who gets cold feet on the cusp of her wedding.
“Audiences would come up to me to tell me how they also had a guy who broke their heart and they want to see that, to watch something where apartheid is not in the foreground,” said Renate Stuurman, who plays Princess. “It can be in the background, surely, it’s what brought us here, but people were happy to be distracted.”