South African pic will preem in fest's Vanguard sidebar

JOHANNESBURG — A group of local guerrilla filmmakers is determined to prove it’s possible to make commercial movies in South Africa, even with a shoestring budget.

Director John Barker and his small team from Dog Pack Films are looking forward to screening “Bunny Chow” to an international aud at the Toronto Film Fest. The quintessentially South African urban comedy will premiere in the fest’s adventurous Vanguard sidebar.

Title refers to a popular local street food in which the inside of a loaf of bread is scooped out and replaced with curry — but, according to Barker, it’s also a metaphor for the melting pot of cultures and people in Johannesburg.

Shot in black-and-white on a budget of around $150,000, “Bunny Chow” tells the story of three young black South African comedians — featuring real-life local comedians David Kibuuka, Kagiso Lediga and Joey Rasdien — on a crazy road trip to Oppikoppi, South Africa’s rock festival held annually on a farm in the bushveld north of Johannesburg.

Barker thinks that, given the South Africans’ love of comedy and the modest budget, there’s a good chance for the pic to recoup.

Dog Pack Films has two other projects in development: “The Dictator,” a humorous look at an African despot, and “Jack Nimble,” about a drug dealer.

“Bunny Chow” will be released nationwide in South Africa by Ster-Kinekor Distribution in early 2007. DV8 Films, the South African production company that promotes the development of local feature production, is handling international sales.

“This is really the first South African comedy that can work both locally and internationally,” say Joel Phiri and Jeremy Nathan of DV8 Films.

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