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Solomon Mahlangu biopic finally set for release

The film will debut at Rapid Lion's South African Film Festival on 12 March.

Lead actor Thabo Rametsi alongside Pearl Thusi who plays the role of Brenda in the biopic 'Kalushi'. Picture: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG - A biopic based on struggle stalwart Solomon Mahlangu ,Kalushi, will finally debut at the opening ceremony of South Africa's international film festival in Johannesburg this month.

Mahlangu was sentenced to death by hanging exactly 36 years ago and executed a year later.

The film which has taken nearly nine years to complete has been hailed as an important South African story with a personal letter of endorsement from President Jacob Zuma.

Director Mandla Dube says he had to overcome a number of challenges in the nine years it's taken to get the film off the ground.

One of them was reconstructing events leading up to Mahlangu's execution in 1979.

"In our research about the timeline of who Solomon Mahlangu was, we found out that the gallows had been removed with the new dispensation when President Nelson Mandela had come in with the new democracy. And then all of a sudden, two or four years into the research correctional services started saying 'no we are going to bring it back.' So we really thank the spirit of Solomon Mahlangu that they were restored and then those execution chambers are now standing and we ended up shooting at the real place where he was executed."

Dube says the process was made slightly easier with the permission of the Mahlangu family.

"The South African National Archives gave us the go ahead with the permission of the family to have access to the court transcripts of the trial and what took place. Interviewing the family, Solomon's mother, brother and other siblings were helping us in constructing the narrative because there is really not much on Solomon Mahlangu and him as a young person."

Watch: Kalushi Trailer

Kalushi has been hailed by Rapid Lion as an important South African story.

Thabo Rametsi who plays Mahlangu says the timing of its debut is particularly significant.

"How it happened was completely accidental and it came at a great cost because we had to delay the shooting cause we ran out of budget, but honestly I think it was meant to happen like this. This is probably symbolic of a young voice like Solomon's wanting to be heard as well and maybe a little bit of spiritual magic has gone on in making sure that it's spoken at this time because I feel like this is the voice of the youth right now."

Dube agrees and says it is important for both adults and younger people to see the film.

"We need to be able to find a way to talk to each other and I just hope Kalushi can at least open up that platform for us to have a dialogue about the past, the present and where we are going."

SOLOMON MAHLANGU

Based on the facts provided by SA History Online, Solomon 'Kalushi' Mahlangu was born in Pretoria on 10 July in 1956, where he attended Mamelodi High School up to Standard 8 but did not complete his schooling due to ongoing riots at the time.

He joined the African National Congress (ANC) in September 1976 and was trained as an Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) soldier.

On 13 June 1977, Mahlangu and his friends were caught in a gun battle with police in the Johannesburg CBD in which two men were killed and two others wounded.

The judge apparently accepted that Mondy Johannes Motloung (one of Mahlangu's friends) was responsible for the actual killings, but he had been beaten during the course of his capture and had severe brain damage making him unfit to stand trial.

Despite this, Mahlangu was found guilty on two counts of murder and three charges under the Terrorism Act because of 'the principle of common purpose'.

He was sentenced to death by hanging on 2 March 1978 and executed on 6 April 1979.

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