Netflix’s trending Pantsula drama Tjovitjo set to film in Botswana

GABORONE, Botswana, May 2020/ — The record-breaking independently produced South African dance drama series, TJOVITJO (pronounced cho-vee-choo) currently streaming on Netflix is said to be looking to expand and diversify its viewership by casting its net in Botswana.

The show’s Executive Producer and Director, Vincent Moloi says they have identified talented Pantsula groups in Botswana especially a Kanye Pantsula group and as such they are extremely keen to film some scenes in Kanye – a town in southern Botswana, located 83 kilometres south-west of the capital, Gaborone.

TJOVITJO follows real-life Pantsula dancers on their daily grind, led by a disgruntled former dancer, Mafred, played exceptionally well by Warren Masemola. Dance is what keeps this impoverished community sane. Originally broadcast on South Africa’s national channel SABC in 2017, the series broke viewership records making it the nation’s most-watched TV drama series of all time. It later went on to win several awards at the local film and TV awards.

With the whole world under currently under siege due to COVID-19 pandemic and spending most time at home, social media has been abuzz about Tjovitjo’s addition to Netflix – a great feeling for any producer.

“The viewership ratings have been surprisingly great. Perhaps I should give context to this. When we first pitched Tjovitjo all broadcasters in South Africa rejected it. They all gave various reasons, but the common denominator was that Pantsula is dead. This was about 7 years ago. Eventually SABC took a gamble and gave us the nod. We then broke viewership records which were set by Yizo-Yizo many years ago,” said Moloi.

He added that this was then followed by TJOVITJO winning multitude of awards and bagging all awards under the drama category at the South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTA) being best drama, best director, best actor, best cinematography, best art director, best sound design and best editor.

“The icing on the cake was when only 3 years later after it had played on TV, it got onto Netflix. Then it trended, few days later it was in the popular list shows on Netflix.”

Moloi said he is keen to explore Botswana’s talent. A few Batswana actors have been making moves to RSA a better established market. These are Maxwell Dichi and Seno (Seretse and Marang on Muvhango respectively).

“Botswana and South Africa have a strong family and cultural bond. And I personally have a keen interest in the talent that you have in Botswana. This is not just a behind the scene talent but also front of screen talent. Botswana has got an even stronger old school Pantsula culture than South Africa. You have managed to archive it by living it. There’s a big community of Pantsula’s in Kanye that we’re intending to feature them in the coming season. But I have also been amazed by a talent of young filmmakers in Botswana. So my long-time friend and business associate, Moabi Mogorosi introduced me to a couple of filmmakers that we plan to bring over to work on the project so there is a skills’ exchange. As Africans we’re a beautiful people, with beautiful culture, song and dance. Sometimes I feel our problems make us forget how amazing we are. And the coming season of Tjovitjo will attempt to remind us of that,” he concluded.

Two local filmmakers, Koone Boikaego and Kevin Sebolao are tipped to be amongst the Botswana filming crew, videographers and assistant directors. Boikaego said he is looking forward to working and learning from the award-winning director and other seasoned cast members that will be on the next season.

“It’s a dream come true for us and it’s going to change our journey as filmmakers and above all impact the film and television landscape in Botswana.”

For his counterpart, Sebolao said they are excited to be working with Moloi as it will be a knowledgeable journey. He added that their partnership will further broaden their film industry and knowledge exchange.

“His plans of shooting part of Tjovitjo season 3 in Botswana brought joy to us because he will bring to our home one of the biggest series in South Africa. The other reason that got us excited is that that our local talent will also get a chance to be a part of the production and that means they also get a chance to shine not just locally but globally. Film brings change to locals in so many ways, be it social, economic and culturally. Going to Kanye and Ramotswa to shoot local dancers there means we will be spreading the film culture from the concentrated city to the surrounding areas.”

He added, “We are also excited for Puo Pha Productions and Tjovitjo because this will solidify their market for target audience locally. It is also great to have a fan base as these are the people who support you and watch your productions and that will mean more numbers.”

The team behind the TJOVITJO production is Lodi Matsetela and Vincent Moloi, of Puo Pha Productions. Established in 2006, Puo Pha has always distinguished itself by creating content, factual or fiction that raises the bar for the South African industry.

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