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South Africa’s E.tv unveils new series

'Name' profiles local entertainment personalities

JOHANNESBURG — E.tv  is looking to tap into South Africa’s growing celebrity culture with a new entertainment documentary series featuring in-depth profiles of well-known personalities in the local film, TV, music, theater and fashion industry.

“Behind the Name” will debut Sept. 5 on the independent free-to-air channel in the prime-time 8pm slot.

The 10-part series was conceived by Nicky Greenwall, producer and presenter of “The Showbiz Report,” e.tv’s weekly magazine show focusing on the entertainment industry.

Greenwall, who is co-directing with Tamarin Kaplan, said working on “The Showbiz Report” illustrated the potential of the growing interest in local celebrities. South Africa has not historically had a big celebrity culture, but this has been changing over the past few years with magazines and newspapers increasingly running reports on the lives of local TV and film personalities as well as leading athletes.

“So far I’ve produced 125 episodes of “The Showbiz Report,” and sometimes after an episode I think I could have done a particular insert on a local personality better if I’d had more time. I’d just scraped the surface,” said Greenwall. “So last year I approached e.tv channel director Bronwyn Keene-Young with the idea of doing an entertainment documentary series that I could put all my energy and passion into, and she told me to go ahead.”

But Greenwall said the continued de facto separation between South Africa’s multiple cultures in terms of entertainment tastes also presents particular challenges.

“From our test audiences we’ve found that the local celebrity culture is very segregated; celebrities in some South African cultures are virtually unknown in others,” said Greenwall.

To ensure an in-depth look at their subjects, Greenwall and Kaplan conducted long interviews, some lasting two days. It took a year to complete five episodes of the series, with each episode taking up to four months. “We allow each celebrity to tell their own story and we’ve had access to some amazing, never-before-seen archival footage,” said Kaplan.

Some of the celebrities to be featured include Hakeem Kae-Kazim (“Hotel Rwanda”), the Nigerian-born, British-raised actor who moved to South Africa and became a household name on local TV with roles in top shows such as “Generations”; kwaito music star Mandoza, who also played a leading role in Darryl Roodt’s film “Number 10”; fashion photographer and ex-Calvin Klein model Josie Borain; South Africa’s “Princess of Pop” Yvonnne Chaka-Chaka; theater actor and director Pieter Dirk-Uys, creator of his satirical drag act character Evita Bezuidenhout; and actor and TV presenter Colin Moss (“Idols,” “Isidingo”).

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