Fuss over Fassie film isn't the drama SA asked for
Battle between son and music producer means legendary singer’s story will take much longer to hit the screens
My mom, my rights – or my music, my rights?
This is what the North Gauteng High Court will ultimately need to decide on in the battle between veteran music producer Sello “Chicco” Twala and the late Brenda Fassie’s son, Bongani.
This year, there was much excitement over the Brenda Fassie biopic, and thousands of South Africans auditioned to play the role of “the Madonna of the townships”. But the legal rigmarole has meant the world is no closer to a biopic on the life of the late pop star.
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.
But then Chicco Twala was granted an urgent interdict to halt production, advertising and casting for the film, claiming he owned the rights to the film. That order was granted and the North Gauteng High Court will hear arguments in the case.
In court papers, Twala claims Bongani Fassie confided in him as early as 2010 that he required assistance to do a film on his late mother. Twala says he advised Fassie they would need to enlist the help of someone with experience in the film industry.
Twala reached out to Dzinge Productions to produce the film, and he said it was agreed that Professor Zakes Mda would write the script and Ntshavheni Luruli would direct the film. The Department of Trade and Industry had been approached for funding.
By 2017, the pair was satisfied that “only a few things were outstanding for launching the movie”, and things were slowly taking shape for the biopic, according to Twala.In October last year, Fassie’s manager Vaughn Eaton was briefed about the film and requested information regarding the cast, release date, investments and the day on which filming would commence.
“Although we were suspicious of his intention, he was shown videos of our research interviews and was further handed over a written pack, and this was done in good faith,” Twala says in his affidavit.
But in December, Twala was informed by Eaton that their joint agreement with the production company and Fassie was being terminated.
Twala, who believes he is the “majority holder of the rights of the production of the movie Brenda Fassie”, says this “came as a shock”.
He described Fassie and his manager’s conduct as “improper” and “dishonest”.
In his answering affidavit, Bongani Fassie denies the allegations made by Twala, and further argues Twala “cannot be entitled to a right of exclusivity” and that the joint venture was “nonexistent”.
“I submit that I am the sole owner of all intellectual property, trademarks and copyrights attached to my late mother, I am free to contract with whoever I choose to,” Fassie says in court documents.
Fassie, who claims to be the “owner of these rights” in his personal capacity, has denied entering into any binding contracts with Twala or the production.
The matter will be heard on Wednesday.