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How this South African comedian and filmmaker is telling stories that resonate worldwide

For telling hyperlocal South African stories that can appeal to global audiences, writer/director and actor Kagiso Lediga is one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People of 2019.

How this South African comedian and filmmaker is telling stories that resonate worldwide
[Illustration: Artur Tenczyński]
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A small film about two friends in Pretoria, South Africa, who use their expertise in botany to create a special strain of weed, became one of the top-performing films at the South African box office in January. Written, directed, and produced by comedian Kagiso Lediga, Matwetwe was made for just $150,000 and shot in eight days with a cast of mostly drama students. The film may be local even by South African standards—the cast speaks in Pretorian slang—but its humor and humanity resonated well beyond the capital. The movie played at international film festivals, and Lediga is talking to distributors about releasing it in other countries. Lediga says he tries to “make these ultraspecific stories that can be relevant with different people” in all his work, including the 2017 Net­flix local-language film Catching Feelings, which Lediga wrote, directed, and starred in, and the upcoming series Queen Sono, which is currently in production for the streaming company. The projects are all produced through the Johannesburg-based company Diprente Films, which Lediga cofounded. He honed his skill through years as a black comedian doing stand-up in white comedy clubs. “You’re performing, essentially, for a foreign audience,” he says. “You’re supposed to make them laugh and [be] comfortable without pandering. Being a South African comedian has always been a tightrope walk.”

About the author

Nicole LaPorte is an LA-based senior writer for Fast Company who writes about where technology and entertainment intersect. She previously was a columnist for The New York Times and a staff writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and Variety

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