Busiswa Gqulu has captured the hearts of South Africans with her saucy dance moves and catchy lyrics, and won numerous awards in a meteoric rise in an industry where you’re big one day and a has-been the next.
However, while this Mthatha-born singer-songwriter’s star keeps on shining brighter, her life story is a different matter and one that is worthy of a place on the big screen.
From struggling to hold down temporary jobs while staying in a friend’s apartment after dropping out of university, there was a time when nothing in her life indicated she’d be one of the biggest musicians on the continent.
“I was literally squatting at my friend’s place in Durban. I had dropped out of varsity at that time.
“I was broke and I was doing a few [odd] jobs. Waitressing and working at a hair salon. You know, doing those gigs, working at the art centre doing poetry sessions,” the no-holds-barred Gqulu once told a local radio station.
But now, thanks to Gqulu’s willingness to share her story and the directing genius of Fred Kayembe and Vaughn Thiel, audiences will soon be able to see her journey in the powerful biographical documentary Busiswa: An Unbreakable Story.
Set to debut at the Africa Rising International Film Festival (Ariff) on Wednesday next week and narrated by Gqulu, the film explores modern ideas of independence, femininity and identity through the performer’s remarkable personal life story.
“We are thrilled to have a story about a powerful woman who is changing the game in more ways than one lead our opening night,” said Ariff co-founder Ayanda Sithebe in a press statement.
The organisers said the documentary would take audiences on a journey back in time while exploring the complex conditions and events that thrust a modest young girl from the Eastern Cape into the limelight and then on to achieving global status.
She recently joined Beyoncé Knowles on The Gift album curated by Knowles for The Lion King movie.
The film festival, which will be held in Johannesburg’s Newtown precinct from Wednesdayu to Friday next week, aims to address lack of accessibility, women empowerment and youth development by providing previously disadvantaged communities – youth, women, the LGBTQI+ community and people living with disabilities – an opportunity to participate in the festival.
The four-day programme will include The Chi’s creator and coveted writer Lena Waithe’s dynamic and thrilling feature, Queen & Slim, starring Black Panther’s Daniel Kaluuya.
Described as the “modern day Bonnie and Clyde” the film is directed by Melina Matsoukas, best known for her work on Beyonce’s culture-defining visual Formation. Queen & Slim is due for American release on the opening night of the Africa Rising International Film Festival.