JOHANNESBURG — Veteran helmer Akin Omotoso’s “Vaya” will soon screen at the Joburg Film Festival following the Toronto world premiere of this triptych about life in the gritty South African metropolis.
Four years after the Toronto debut of his acclaimed “Man on Ground,” which dramatized the plight of foreigners in a South Africa wracked by xenophobic violence, Omotoso in this film once again trains his lens on the harsh underbelly of the city he calls home.
In “Vaya,” three small-town travelers arrive in Johannesburg with different hopes and plans, only to discover the hard realities of life “when you’re not in control of your own destiny,” according to Omotoso. Their stories intertwine in what TIFF organizers likened to “a South African spin on ‘Amores Perros.’”
For the Nigerian-born actor, writer and director, who’s spent more than two decades living in South Africa, “Vaya” strikes a personal chord with its themes of “new spaces, new challenges and new opportunities.”
Omotoso finds a fitting backdrop for his work in Johannesburg, an African El Dorado of hustlers and strivers whose Zulu name, eGoli, means “place of gold.” Much of the film is based on the real-life stories of people living on the streets—some of whom appear in the film.
But in “Vaya,” Omotoso says he wanted to explore the feeling of arrival – with its built-in expectations and fears – “in a way that’s true to a lot of places.”
More than ten years in the making, the movie marks a dramatic turn-around for the helmer, who last year struck box office gold in South Africa with his crowd-pleasing romcom, “Tell Me Sweet Something.”
But over the span of a two-decade-long career that’s brought him success on both sides of the camera, Omotoso – who describes himself as “a multi-faceted storyteller” – is much like the metropolis he uses as his canvas. It’s a city, he says, that “has many faces.”
Omotoso is repped by APA and The Mission Entertainment.