Recent Wits urban and regional planning graduate, Francesco Mbele (20), directs Universal Elixir, a behind-the-scenes documentary on a short film come fashion show, Banyoloyi a Bosigo (Ultimate Midnight Angels).
The short film for Thebe Magugu’s Autumn/Winter 2021 Paris Fashion Week show works in tandem with his collection Alchemy, described by the designer as an “exploration of the changing face of African Spirituality.” The documentary premiered on Magugu’s YouTube channel on the 25th of March 2021 and the short film on the 2nd of March.
Shot in the style of 70s Japanese Pink Films, the short film and documentary follow the same unique editing style personal to Francesco’s general filmmaking aesthetic. He describes the film as a heart-warming, emotive and sincere compliment to the short film. “In considering the magnitude of the film for South African fashion, especially “post ’94, we really have to tell our stories, telling the story of how the film was produced was something in its own right, which had to be broadcast to the world” says Francesco.
In discussing location and set, he mentions shooting the river side scenes on the second day at the Cradle Moon Lakeside Game Lodge as challenging. Together with the film’s director, Kristin-Lee Moolman, Francesco works around these challenges with different filming techniques and breaking away from their original vision for the documentary.
On the third day of shooting, the location was a mine dump in the South West of Johannesburg, which becomes the stage, on which a big battle scene occurs. Francesco climbed and navigated himself around the mounds of yellow and white sand dunes, using the height to his advantage in capturing wonderful long shots the young documentarian loves to shoot.
Shot in chronological order, Universal Elixir differs from the progression of events in Banyoloyi a Bosigo. To differentiate the two, Francesco sequences and edits shots to form a narrative in the documentary that is not relative to the short film. Having worked as a photographer and creative director on previous projects with Magugu, Francesco wanted a position in the background for this documentary, providing him with a unique viewpoint to “create the story behind the story” concludes Francesco.
FEATURED IMAGE: Universal Elixir documentarian Francesco Mbele PHOTO: Francesco Mbele