‘Small film with a lot of heart’

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Johannesburg - The Global Nonviolent Film Festival has bestowed two awards on South African film “Mr Johnson” for the manner it tackles the place of older people in modern society.

“Mr Johnson” scooped the Best Film and Best Actor awards last week.

Director William Collinson said the awards came as a surprise as he never expected that the movie would excel on the international stage.

“Mr Johnson was such a labour of love. I never imagined that our little film would fare so well internationally. Winning came as a surprise to me,” said Collinson.

“This has been an extremely humbling experience and I am truly honoured to receive this award. I was blessed to have such an astounding cast and crew who gave their all to realise my vision for ‘Mr Johnson’. Let us hope that this film goes some way towards changing attitudes towards elderly people.”

Aimee Dherman, who produced “Mr Johnson”, said the reception the film had received was overwhelming.

“This is a small film, but it has a lot of heart, and we are happy to learn that it was embraced by audiences and jury members at the Global Nonviolent Film Festival. We are especially proud of William Collinson and Paul Slabolepszy, but praise has to go to the entire production team.”

The film follows David Johnson, played by Paul Slabolepszy, as he awakens from a 47-year long coma at the age of 73 and has a hard time dealing with his aged body and the fact he has missed out on more than half his life.

As he slowly steps into a strange new world, his youthful exuberance is rekindled and he pursues life and love with an inspiring passion. But through it all he must contend with the realities of loneliness and alienation that are increasingly common amongst older people in modern societies.

The film also stars Jana Cilliers, Frank Rautenbach, Sisanda Henna, Graham Hopkins and Jailoshini Naidoo, among others.

Slabolepszy – who took the Best Actor nod for his portrayal of David Johnson – said: “It is fantastic. If it was not for COVID-19, I would have gone there myself to collect the award. I am honoured to receive this award.

“For the movie to win an international accolade is good for the country. I have been acting on stage and TV and won awards, but this one is special because it is the first film award and also to win an award at this age.”

He said older people must rise above discriminatory views of them and express their talents to the full.

“It was great to play this character, particularly because old people are so often invisibilised. What ‘Mr Johnson’ shows is that it doesn’t matter how old you are, you still have energy, enthusiasm and can contribute as much as anyone else. In that sense, this is an important film.

“What made it more exciting for me is that my friends in New York who saw the movie said I gave a convincing performance.”

Slabolepszy has written about 35 plays that include “Saturday Night at the Palace”, “Under the Oaks”, “Over the Hill”, “Mooi Street Moves” and “Suddenly the Storm”.

The Global Nonviolent Film Festival was established in 2012 with the aim of increasing the international popularity of nonviolent movies.

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