Sending an arts journalist on a story that requires gossip and spicy titbits can be a challenge for the person concerned. Phumlani S Langa navigates his way around the SA Film and Television Awards.
Last weekend it was the 13th annual SA Film and Television Awards (Saftas) at Sun City. A time when actors, camera operators, writers and directors are let loose for a weekend of hellish hangovers in a resort that makes sinning simple.
After a sweltering drive, my photographer and I pull up to The Cascades Hotel drenched in sweat and are told check-in is still an hour away.
Once we do check in, we’re told that we’ll be sharing a room and, as much as I respect the homie, that sucked. With that, I made up my mind to not spend that much time in the room and, if things went my way, perhaps spend a night in someone else’s room.
We unwind and then hit the beach party at the Valley of the Waves. A soirée on the banks of this big pool – there’s an abundance of food, free Magnum ice creams and an open bar.
What started out as a laid-back dinner on the PPC sand beach slowly warps itself into a fully fledged piss-up. Actor Jamie Bartlett, who I thought had quite a pure persona, is fighting with his girlfriend and celebrities, who stumble past me with zombie-like looks on their faces as they clutch on to their drinks.
You need not ask where the afterparty is at Sun City, it is only ever at one place, The Revue Bar.
I’m not sure how we got there but, once inside, things pick up again.
This bar has the nerve to charge a R70 entrance fee. Inside, it looks like a Melville joint, what is this R70 for? So I hang back with other seasoned Sun City sinners who know that the fee will be waved after enough drunk people have been duped into parting with their money. And, so it is. Inside people dance to what sounds like Mafikizolo. While standing outside, a wasted white guy runs up to me with his arms extended. Not a good clean gait but a side-winding waddle. It scares the life out of me because I think I’m about get into a brawl. Luckily he passes by me and continues his revelry.
At one point married actors Linda Sokhulu and Kgomotso Christopher walk by smiling and chatting. I attempt a smile and wink but instead manage a nervous twitch when Sokhulu glances back at me.
Finally, The Revue Bar waives its entrance fee as I expected, and I make my way inside. I share a cigarette with young designer Noluthando Lobese, who calls herself Texture. Another gentleman by the name of Tiger joins us, followed by former Isibaya actor Andile Gumbi, who has a dark aura about him. Gumbi and Tex are apparently an item. At some point, Tiger and Gumbi start insulting each other. Tiger asks Gumbi to leave the smokers’ section and Gumbi stays, looking at him unwaveringly. Sensing trouble, I kill my cancer stick and head to the exit just as Tiger jumps to his feet and hits Gumbi with the most impressive punch and elbow combination I’ve seen in a while. I’m talking mixed martial arts connections to Gumbi’s face. Gumbi entered the club rocking spectacles and a hat, he left without those accessories and a fraction of the pride he walked in with.
Bouncers are a tad bit slow to react and a few other people join in the rumble. I stand there with a look of shock on my face as well as being grateful that I didn’t get caught in the crossfire of punches. Texture, or Tex as I now call her, wants to leave the club with me and go for a chat … I told her I didn’t want her man or main squeeze to end up catching smoke two times in one night.
I wake up in the front seat of the car, alone, with KFC take out packets all around me.
One thing about casino resorts is that they might be warm and welcoming, but they are trying nothing more than to finesse you out of your money, which was made clear in the harsh light of morning as we tried to get breakfast. Imagine, R230 for a breakfast that tastes like Wimpy. Usually breakfast comes with the room but because the Safta organisers put us in one room, that’s one breakfast.
I head to the poolside to cultivate a story for the City Press news pages and rest up for the awards ceremony. At 6pm on Saturday the media are gathered at the Convention Centre where the red carpet will take place. Celebs stroll in as people scream and cameras click. Some home girl from Wits replies to a tweet of a picture I posted. “Ooooh these look so bad.” Even if Martin Scorsese shot the red carpet it would still be as moving as a person standing on a carpet with their hand resting on their protruding hip. Best you go grab one of those R7 MSG chip sandwhiches from the Matrix and miss me. Peace to Uzalo actress Nelisa Mchunu who posts one of my wack pictures on her Instagram; mad likes.
It is so hot at the red carpet. Some people try to handle questions on the carpet while sweat rolls off their faces. Veteran actor Terence Bridgett has to change outfits before the show even starts.
Once it did, I watch one segment of the live broadcast in the not-so-super Super Bowl. As soon as the broadcast cut to an advert, a show runner or director steps up to the microphone. He leads the crowd through a clapping exercise to boost the energy in the room. Usually they get an up-and-coming comedian to keep the crowd warm. This guy is just corny. The show is staggeringly boring; even the mash up of Sho Madjozi and Boity Thulo is unimpressive. Coming on stage and singing over a backing track is blasphemous. I might as well throw on some headphones and watch one of your videos.
A quiet end
I watch the rest of the show from the comfort of the hotel room I was hoping not to be sleeping in later, with a bottle of Porcupine Ridge that I had stashed away for just such moments.
I’m told food is being rolled out backstage, so I slide through. Winners are in the room speaking to Somizi Mhlongo on a couch or walking around with their shiny golden horns.
The food is proper, surf and turf, fresh ciabatta and an array of other goodies that look like they used up a fair amount of the reduced budget. So I get seconds and while dealing with the curry and basmati I can’t help but think of all the projects that could’ve been funded if this event was held over one day at Nasrec or Gallagher Estate.