Sbu Mkwanazi
2 minute read
8 Oct 2018
9:27 am

Locking down local tales

Sbu Mkwanazi

The Lockdown creator and director Mandla Ngcongwane reveals what inspired him to make the show and how authenticity is key to its success.

Midas Touch: The Lockdown star Nelisiwe Sibiya and producer and director Mandla Ngcongwane.

On-demand TV would not solve the complaints voiced by viewers of The Lockdown. This week the third season of the Mzansi Magic hit show saw the credits roll for the last time until April next year, when the fourth season starts.

If the show was available as a set on services such as ShowMax, the millions of tweeps who religiously watch it on Mondays while simultaneously commenting on Twitter, would have binge-watched the entire series in a few hours. That’s how it is with world class production and storytelling. And it proves that creator and director Mandla Ngcongwane certainly has the Midas touch.

“Telling authentic stories is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a creative. I grew up in Soweto and we were all fascinated by the idea of prison.

“We all knew a guy who was in prison, or who had just come out of prison, or was on the way to prison,” laughs Ngcongwane. “I thought then that as South Africa is not aware of the female prisoners behind bars, so I started researching and developed the story in 2013, which turned into The Lockdown.”

It’s more than just an exceptional tale about the hardships and victories of female prisoners, which is why it will continue to be immensely popular. There could not be a better time for it to have been on South African television as the country grapples with gender equality. But what intrigued Ngcongwane enough to conceptualise the story was the benefits of an all-female cast.

“On any set, the ladies are always ready to be vulnerable and use their emotions to their advantage. They are not scared to trust the story and to understand where the plot is going.

“This means a production like The Lockdown becomes as authentic as life itself.

“The violent, tender and emotional scenes are so believable because the ladies really have a deeper understanding of their characters.

“In addition, we had former prisoners as part of the show, and the bond on set with them was the real deal.”

Another factor that makes the award-winning show (it won a South African Film and TV Award for Best Achievement in Scriptwriting – TV Drama this year) outstanding is its use of music. Nelisiwe Sibiya’s voice injects the scenes with appropriate emotions such as passion, jealousy, hate or love.

“TV and music are the same, in that they are both storytelling. That is why I invested in the soundtrack, as 50% of the show is how the music makes the audience feel. I score for the scenes, as what is going on visually has to be complemented by gripping audio as well.

“I used distorted guitars and unmastered sounds to portray imperfection, as the lives these ladies live is far from perfect,” says the former Gang of Instrumentals band member.

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