Happiness is a Four-Letter Word movie begins Filming


The South African film industry is about to get a dose of happiness. The multi-award winning novel Happiness is a Four-Letter Word has been turned into a screenplay and filming commenced on 13 July in and around Johannesburg.

The film, titled Happiness is a Four-Letter Word, tells the story of three friends trying to find their happiness while maintaining images of success and acceptability. The complex, distinctive voices of the characters developed by novelist Cynthia Nozizwe Jele continue to be the guiding lens for the movie. The three women in Happiness is a Four-Letter Word were destined to jump from the pages into full colour when the novel was awarded the 2011 M-Net Literary Award in the Film category.

The story revolves around perfectionist lawyer Nandi, glamorous housewife Zaza and trendy art gallery owner Princess, who seem to be living the new South African dream: money, success, and loving partners. The three friends juggle life’s surprising changes as they come to learn that “happiness doesn’t come with a manual.” The three will have to find out what truly makes each of them happy and then fight to get it in their unique way.

The movie is being produced with part funding from the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and forms part of the Junaid Ahmed Productions slate of films that aim to develop key areas of black talent in the film industry. The NFVF/Junaid Ahmed Productions slate programme has had great success with the 2014 release of Hard to Get, which garnered various awards, and was the opening night film of the 2014 Durban International Film Festival.

At the helm of the production team are Hard to Get producers Junaid Ahmed and Helena Spring, and first time feature film producer Bongiwe Selane who says “I’m excited to be producing my first feature film with two formidable producers, whom I consider doyens in the industry. I was a fan of Happiness is a Four-Letter Word when it was first published and immediately knew that it is the kind of story that lends itself to screen adaptation.” Junaid Ahmed adds “It’s important for us to grow black excellence in the film industry. The fact that Happiness is a story about ambitious black women is an added and much-welcomed layer. Helena Spring added: “It’s wonderful for me to watch the great achievements in the South African film industry and to be part of showcasing black talent in full colour.”

While Busisiwe Ntilintili adapted the novel into a screenplay, Cynthia Nozizwe Jele, who is currently busy with her second novel, kept a strong hand on the adaptation and has been integral in the film production. An excited and humble Nozizwe says, “I’m thrilled about the film. The novel received tremendous support and still gets attention. I’m also excited about the developing trend of local books being turned into films and television dramas. The content and depth of South African writers is relevant and of a high calibre. I wish the cast and production team all the best, and I can’t wait to see the final product.”

The director Thabang Moleya whose accolades include Vuka Awards, SAFTA Awards, and an Emmy Nomination leads a stellar cast including Mmabatho Montsho as Nandi, Khanyi Mbau as Zaza, and Renate Stuurman as Princess. Happiness is a Four-Letter Word will elevate the state of South African cinema, and raise the volume on the stunted representation of black females in film both behind and in front of camera.

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