Production is set to begin on “Five Fingers for Marseilles,” a South African thriller set in the rugged badlands of the Eastern Cape. After seven years and 5,000 miles of research and development across the countryside, writer Sean Drummond and helmer Michael Matthews have attracted an all-star cast of local talent for their Western-inspired tale of an outlaw who returns home after years on the run, and finding a chance at redemption.

By putting a contemporary spin on Western themes, Drummond says, “The time is more right than ever before for this film.

“Socially and politically, a lot of the themes we explore are resonating now,” he says, noting that “the good Westerns always had socio-political undercurrents running through them.”

Thesp Vuyo Dabula heads an ensemble cast that includes Thishiwe Ziqubu, Kenneth Nkosi, Mduduzi Mabaso, Lizwi Vilakazi, Kenneth Fok, Anthony Oseyemi, Dean Fourie, and Jerry Mofokeng.  Cast by acclaimed casting director Moonyeenn Lee, pic will also use members of the local Eastern Cape communities for supporting roles.

The film was awarded Best South African Film in Development at the Durban FilmMart’s finance forum in 2013. Produced by Drummond and Matthews’ Be Phat Motel Film Company and Yaron Schwartzman and Asger Hussain of Game 7 Films (Academy Award-winner “Precious”), in association with Stage 5 Films (DIFF 2016 opener “The Journeymen”) and Above the Clouds, it was also made possible with the support of South Africa’s National Film & Video Foundation and the Dept. of Trade and Industry, with additional services from Dupa Films.

“Five Fingers” is slated for an early 2017 release in South Africa. Indigenous Film Distribution will release in South Africa, and XYZ Films represents North American sales.

Game 7’s Schwartzman says, “‘Five Fingers’ is a testament to the power, freshness and ingenuity of new narratives coming from across the world. Stories that need to be told and whose time has most definitely come. We’re proud to be associated with it.”

According to Drummond, the collaboration with foreign partners has been integral to the production from the early stages. “We’re carving a new model here in many senses: a fully local film in local language, with fully local cast, financed through a combination of S.A. and international funding, for a world audience,” he says.

“We’ve been conscious from the start of developing this film for an international audience as much as a South African one, and we were lucky to meet Game 7 Films early in development,” he adds. “The advice, experience and expertise of XYZ Films, too, when it comes to taking international genre films to the U.S. market, has been invaluable.”

Drummond notes that as the South African industry has grown bolder, audience tastes have evolved, allowing filmmakers to take more risks. Despite tough times for the local economy, he says, “it’s exciting to be making films here now. The S.A. new wave we’ve all talked up for years is really in its stride, and we’re honored to be part of it at this time.”