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Ibala: A Film About Albinism

Meet producer Mpho Ramathuthu

BY Agnes Amondi

Nov 07, 2022, 07:15 AM

South African film producer Mpho Ramathuthu is not a new face at the International Images Film Festival for Women. Her film ‘She Is King’ was screened at the event in 2018 and this year, she brings Ibala to the event.

Ibala is the isiZulu term for skin colour. The film shares the journey of Ntombi, a young woman who gets married into a royal family as ‘the chosen wife’. As a result, she is expected to give birth to an heir and does so. 

However, her son is born with albinism and when the community elders find out, they desire to expel her from the village on grounds that her child is a curse.  

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Image banner of Ibala
This creates chaos and tension in the royal household and she battles culture and tradition to fight for her son. Ntombi challenges her husband to educate his people about albinism and fights for his son’s acceptance as the next heir to the throne. 

It is a film that sheds light on the reality of thousands of people who live with albinism on the continent. There are a lot of myths surrounding the condition and these individuals face stigma, discrimination and ritual attacks. Moreover, it also demonstrates the rigidity of culture and its impact on women who are left in a position of defending their place in society.  

This film, as its executive producer Mpho Ramathuthu shared, is meant to educate people and facilitate conversations about the condition. Ibala was produced in 2018 and is a female-led production directed by Rosina Masetla. Mpho tells us more 
Director of Ibala Rosina Masetla
“It is a short film that was made in 2018. At the time, I was running the breaking borders project - African women in film project - and working with different women from countries in the SADC region - Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia. 

“We came together, shared ideas and created content with the aim of telling female-led stories and celebrating and representing African women from our perspective. Ibala was one of the films we managed to take to production.” 

“The story is about women who fight different societal expectations and pressures from their community and goes to show why we have to support each other. It also demonstrates the resolve women have because even with such challenges, women become victorious.”

The language of the film

The cast of the film Ibala
The film is made in the South African language isiZulu, something that characterises Mpho’s work. 

“I'm such a Pan-African and love to tell Pan-African stories. believe stories resonate even better when you talk to people in languages they understand. We tend to accept films from other parts of the world that are made in a foreign language and we don’t have any issues reading subtitles, so why not do the same?

“I always make the push to have our languages celebrated because we need to create more content for our people. We have been bombarded with a lot of foreign material which is why we understand the culture of Americans and other places. For other people to know about us, we need to do the same by telling our own stories.

Another reason why she prioritises local language, Mpho explained is: “I always create work for my people first. If it goes global, it is a bonus. And yes, internationally, films with local language struggle but on the continent, it is celebrated.” 

Festival legs

Ibala has also been screened at the We are African Film Festival and Red Bull Amaphiko Festival and was awarded the best original African TV production at the African Emergency Filmmakers Awards in 2019. It will be screened at the IIFF, an event Mpho has been part of before.
“It’s always amazing to find women fighting for other women, creating spaces for women’s voices to be heard. As a female filmmaker, it's not easy, to have female-led stories, carrying women’s voices and the organisers work hard to raise the bar every year so whenever I am in a position to participate, I always do.

“In 2018, I screened my other films at the festival. I love what they do in Zimbabwe and I’m always rooting for them.”