project

Bunny Chow

Film

Three comedians and a weird guy named Cope embark on a raucous weekend journey to Oppikoppi, South Africa’s biggest rock festival. The guys slip out of the city for a few dusty and increasingly absurd days with hopes of mass debauchery, drugs, rampant sex, true love and conquering the comedy stages, but they get a bit more that they bargained for.

Director – John Barker

Writers – John Barker, David Kibuuka, Joey Rasdien & Salah Sabiti

Actors – Kagiso Lediga, Kim Engelbrecht, David Kibuuka, Joey Rasdien, Loyiso Gola & Jason Cope

Awards

Opening Film at Sithengi (Gala Event) and selected for the Rotterdam International Film Festival, Tiger Awards, AFI Fest, the Raindance Film Festival, Sydney International Film Festival, the San Francisco Film Festival  and the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as being picked up by MTV Europe, distributed in Europe by Dogwoof, and Global Lens in North America.

Story

Dave (David Kibuuka) is a "dishwasher" who has set his mind on becoming a successful stand up comedian despite his absolute lack of success on stage and the sensible advice form his neighbour, who urges him to focus on a more stable occupation like accountancy. Dave however, is determined to succeed.

Kags (Kagiso Lediga), a more established comedian, is to some extent a mentor to Dave. With delusions of grandeur and a relentless womanising streak, he subjects his insecure girlfriend, the beautiful Kim (Kim Engelbrecht) to feelings of doubt and un-fulfilment in their relationship. She needs something more serious but he is far from ready to fully commit.

Joey (Yusuf Rasdien) is a comedian and a Muslim, whose devotion to his faith is questionable. He finds himself torn between the temptations offered by his chosen vocation as an entertainer, and servitude to his religion. His disgruntled and jealous girlfriend Angela (Angela Chow) does not make his life any easier.

These three friends are joined by Cope (Jason Cope), a weird and wandering acquaintance who epitomizes aimlessness, slip out of the city for a journey to a big rock festival in the wilds where they hope to dazzle crowds with their comedy, and engage in unparalleled decadence away from their collective realities.

While the boys are away, Kim discovers something that could possibly change her life and serve as a catalyst in bringing her and Kags closer together. She cannot contain herself so she ventures to the festival to confront Kags with the news. Meanwhile at the festival, amid constant mockery from his comrades, Dave finds a potential love interest and an opportunity to finally find his voice on stage.




Bunny Chow

Dictionary definition: A loaf of bread is cut in half, the soft inside of the bread is pulled out and replaced with an assortment of curried meats and vegetables.

Our definition: Bunny chow is a metaphor for the film as it represents the melting pot of cultures, religions and sexual preferences of JHB all thrown into a half loaf of bread that’s had its insides pulled out. To get to the good stuff you have to peel away the outside layers and mop up the juices. The joy of eating a bunny chow is that it’s designed to be eaten by more than one person so the ritual of eating the food is as interesting as the food. It’s the poor mans version of the Fondue.

Director's Treatment

JOHN BARKER

Set in JHB, the film is loosely based on the lives of four stand-up comedians who embark on a road trip to a predominantly white music festival, OPPI KOPPI.

The film is character driven with strong contemporary dialogue. I employed a dark comic palette while exploring many of the banal idiosyncrasies of daily life, the quirky entanglements of personal relations, and the over-the-top social taboos.

The characters reveal wry, ironic and subversive stories through their relationships with each other and the characters they interact with throughout the film. Many scenarios are drawn from their own experiences and are told in an unconventional, deconstructed style, which reflects the SA society of today. Many of the scenarios and relationships in the film were formulated over the two years that I have worked with the comedians.

Shot on location (Johannesburg, the road trip and the Oppi Koppi festival) with steadicam/held hand cameras, we only used natural light. The film was unconventionally produced; eschewing traditional scripts in favour of detailed scene outlines from which the comics improvised. We employ a technique called "retro-scripting".

The urgency was to get a cast and crew together in three weeks and get to the OPPI KOPPI festival to take advantage of the thousands of festival goers and use them as the backdrop of the film. And thereby also give the film production value.

The show's natural, quasidocumentary style, and the fact that David, Kagiso, Joey and Jason cope play "themselves", further blur the distinctions between fact and fiction.

The film has three very distinct acts. The first establishes our characters relationships with each other set against a gritty urban Johannesburg. The second is a road trip where these relations are tested, and the third is the resolution set against a music festival aesthetic.

People from different religions and ethnic groups living and surviving together are a contemporary reality. Especially in JHB, yet we don’t often see this interaction reflected in South African cinema.

“The urgency was to get a cast and crew together in three weeks and get to the OPPI KOPPI festival to take advantage of the thousands of festival goers and use them as the backdrop of the film.”

Production Notes

JOHN BARKER & KAGISO LEDIGA

Taking into account the massive cost of regular filmmaking, from the development of the script, to the pre-production, to the shoot and later with post production, it’s no wonder that so few films get made in South Africa, actually it’s a miracle that any films gets made at all.

After completing a successful TV sketch comedy show, The Pure Monate Show, John Barker and Kagiso Lediga formed Dog Pack Films, and along with the top writers from the show(David Kibuuka, Salah Sabiti and Joey Rasdien), began writing two screen plays, THE DICTATOR and THE LAST DAYS OF ANNA VAN STORM. After a frustrating year of trying to raise funding, the team decided to just go out and shoot a low budget film.

Instead of staging a music festival with thousands of extras, we went to a real music festival. The problem was that the festival was only four weeks away, so we adopted the retro scripting technique. This allowed us to write broad outlines of scenes and keep them quite loose so that we could change them when performances or locations did not work.

We had a pool of very talented writers, performers, cinematographers and editors who very hungry to make a feature film. The talent was never the issue. Trying to convince investors that we would be able to deliver a feature film was. Our sponsors pulled out the night before we left for the festival. We scraped what little personal ready cash we had and just began shooting. We also killed my wife’s credit card!

We retro scripted, shot and edited for the next eight months taking on other production work to support ourselves and save money for the production. We were happy with the two hour offline but we now needed to take the film to the next level. We approached Jeremy Nathan and Joel Phiri from Dv8 films and independent producer Michelle Wheatley. The guys liked the film and agreed to partner Dog pack and finish the film to an internationally acceptable standard, to raise the post production finance, and get the film distributed. We together got the cut down to its final length, 93 minutes.

We chose a very urban soundtrack to match the contemporary themes of the film. Most of the music on the soundtrack is South African with Joel Assaizky providing and scoring most of the tracks.

“Our sponsors pulled out the night before we left for the festival. We scraped what little personal ready cash we had and just began shooting. We also killed my wife’s credit card!”

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About John Barker

Writer/Director/Producer, known for his directorial debut film Bunny Chow.

Copyright © John Barker - a Barking Rat film - All rights reserved