Fallout over Brenda Fassie film, then court says 'cut'

Pop star's son at odds with Sello Twala over who has the right to tell story of late icon

11 February 2018 - 00:00 By LEONIE WAGNER
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Bongani Fassie with a bronze image of his late mother, Brenda Fassie.
Bongani Fassie with a bronze image of his late mother, Brenda Fassie.
Image: Moeletsi Mabe

There are lights and cameras, but no action for the proposed movie about the late pop star Brenda Fassie.

The High Court in Pretoria this week issued an order halting all auditions, promotions, advertisements and production on the biopic, pending the finalisation of a battle over who owns the rights to the film.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Fassie's only child, Bongani Fassie, said he was determined to see his mother's film made, and that the cast would be announced tomorrow.

But the court order, obtained by veteran music producer Sello "Chicco" Twala, states: "Respondents are interdicted and/or restrained from conducting any casting auditions, promotions, advertisement and production of the movie of the late Brenda Fassie directly or indirectly through any third party." The order is pending the finalisation of an application regarding the rights to the film.

"This is to confuse the public, to distract them and de-motivate them," Fassie, 33, said this week. "I'm prepared to walk barefoot in hell to see my mom's movie. Any challenge must come and I will take it on. If failure is what is expected of me, I'm determined to prove everybody wrong. No one can take away that this is a story about my mom."

Fassie has been in a court battle with Twala over the rights to the film.

In January UK production company Showbizbee announced it would work with the Brenda Fassie estate and Legaci Nova Entertainment to produce the movie Brenda. It said the movie was based on a story by Bongani Fassie, who would be the executive producer.


Bongani Fassie was part of the hip-hop group Jozi, with Da L.E.S and Ishmael Morabe. He
released a solo album, Rise, in 2013 after he split from the group.

Fassie said the movie was about preserving his mother's legacy and restoring her image, and was also about his own image. His last memory of his mother is her being driven to hospital and sitting in a waiting room watching TV soaps. 

"It's a story that must be told, I have to clear mommy's name and to clear everybody else's name who was around her. There were good people in my mom's life too. The question is, why did she die? No one knows."

For the father of two, failure is not an option, especially as "everything I've tried has failed". He said the movie deal was the best thing that had happened to him and that it was his "duty" as a son to make the film. 

A few years ago, Fassie was said to be going down the same drug-laden path as his mother. He was regarded as a lost artist caught up in non-stop partying with copious amounts of drugs, alcohol and sex.

"Some of it was true. I took a heavy knock, my mom was my best friend, my mom was my everything.

"When she left I didn't aspire to be how people had painted her to be. But in a way I did fall off the track and there were similarities. It was hard being in that space."

Having spent his life living in the shadow of an icon, Fassie said he never wanted to be a musician. "I wanted to be a lawyer or a cop. I wanted to be in justice." But he said music chose him, and that he only consciously decided to pursue a career in music after his mother died.

In numbers

10 – Bongani’s age when he released his first album

18 – his age when his mom died

Fassie gets tears in his eyes when he talks about how his mother died, and the allegations of her drug abuse.

"These are things that touch the heart because I'm not speaking about Brenda Fassie the artist, I'm talking about my mother, which I feel gives me the right to be upset."

He said this made him determined to release the movie on November 3, his mother's birthday.

Twala, who was Brenda Fassie's manager, said this week he was equally determined and slammed Fassie's efforts to continue with the film, despite the court interdict.

"We were busy with a script when this occurred. We spent over R1.8-million working with writers, doing research and interviewing people. So it's not like we were just sitting; we've been working.

"I don't want the money, I care about my reputation, I don't want people to use my music," Twala said.

"I am determined, just like him, but I also want to work with him. I don't want to exclude him. We are partners in this and I'm willing to work with him."



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