Jerusalema (South Africa)


A former director of music videos for the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and Faith No More, writer-director Ralph Ziman explores the rise of criminal kingpin Lucky Kunene in his third feature.

I was born and raised in Johannesburg, four or five miles from where the film takes place. It was a very multicultural place. I lived there until my early 20s and had been looking to make a crime film in South Africa for quite some time -- South Africa has become a crime capital since 1994. I was talking to someone about how a lot of buildings had been emptied in the 1980s and the 1990s after the gold boom was over, and downtown had gone down when the whites left for the suburbs. I heard about how, one day, this smart-looking guy (Kunene) came around with letterhead from one of the top law firms. He arrived at this building in downtown Johannesburg and claimed it. The real owner would have had to pursue getting it back through the civil courts. I was amazed.

This man had taken over 20 or 30 high-rise blocks. He was greeted in the population as a Robin Hood. I came to South Africa in 2004 and phoned him. We had a lot of interesting conversations. The way he talked of himself was couched in the history of the struggle. He said he was providing housing to the people -- it was a form of land redistribution. He was very convincing.

The shoot was a great experience. The main unit was 70 days. We shot everything for real in the real places. We were well-protected. We had about 25 armed guards on the set, and we would also dress a few extras in full uniform with prop guns. During the first scene of the film, the police raid with the helicopter, people thought it was a genuine raid -- they were chucking drugs out of the windows. I think we made a very good first impression for people not to mess with us.