Due to his role as a Setswana newsreader on Botswana Television, Kabelo Kgakololo has become a familiar face (and voice) to many of us.
The much-loved news anchor re-joined BTV in 2014 as an assignment editor having spent the previous three years as a commercial farmer.
The 39-year-old Rakops native sponsored himself to further his Film Production studies at the school of film, television and performance, AFDA.
He has a Postgraduate honours degree in Motion picture media, majoring in producing.
He produced a drama called Gatwe e rile, which was showcased at New Capitol cinema last year and recently finished shooting a documentary called Kamwalye.
Our reporter PORTIA NGWAKO MLILO sat down with Kgakololo to find out a little more about his long and varied career.
Q. The school of film, television and performance, AFDA showcased movies produced by its first batch of graduates, including your film ‘Gatwe e rile’ – what was the inspiration behind it?
A. Gatwe e rile is Setswana for ‘once upon a time’, inspired by the oral traditions of Botswana. Setswana cultural identity, customs, systems and indigenous folklore have arguably become ‘useless’ in modern society.
This film is a reworking of one of those folktales and explores metaphor and morality as ‘Botho’ (the essence of one’s character).
In the past Mainane (story telling) was important, entertaining, uniting people and teaching manners and culture.
This is something that has not been documented so I decided to shoot a film.
Q. What is the concept of the film?
A. Marang, the leading lady, is rebellious and self-destructive. Her actions cause her sister to end up in hospital with fatal injuries.
Marang reflects on her actions as she narrates the folktale that so closely mimics modern day lives.
This film hopes to inspire Batswana to re-ignite the spark around collective heritage to avoid on-going cultural erosion and promote cultural adaptation in the 21st century.
Q. What challenges did you face during production?
A. It was very difficult. Gatwe e rile was my final project and it was not like the school was providing us with everything.
They provided equipment but as the producer I had to source funds to cover travel expenses, accommodation and meals.
We managed to get sponsorship from companies like Daisy Loo because we had to shoot in the bush where there were no toilets! Sa Metsi Company provided water and others.
It was not easy because when I went around looking for sponsors companies did not see the importance of helping. The course was also very expensive and I sponsored myself with P69, 500.
Q. Any plans to sell it to television stations or cinemas?
A. My aim is to expand the script and develop it into a movie then sells it to broadcasters.
Our target market is not only Batswana – we want it to be international. The movie is in Setswana with English subtitles.
We are also targeting Africans in diaspora; those who relocated from their homeland to places across the globe and their children do not know African culture.
We are in contact with the organisers of film festivals in a number of countries and that is where we are going to showcase our movies.
Q. Are you part of the Botswana film association?
A. No I am not. I was approached by Botswood and imagined it to be like Hollywood or Nollywood but then realised it’s owned by certain people so I decided not to be part of it.
Q. Mzanzi Magic Africa are crying out for Batswana content. They have previously criticised you for not availing yourself. What is your comment on that?
A. I am currently doing research to find out the quality they want and the standards of productions they buy.
We are looking for a market for my new documentary, ‘Kamwalye’.
It is Sesobiya culture meaning ‘rite of passage’, a ceremony or event marking an important stage in someone’s life.
This one focuses on menstruation. It is a about a young girl having her menstruation for the first time.
Basobiya are found in Kasane, Chobe, Rakops and Kumaga.
We hope organisations will support us and put money into the project so that they can also sell their brand.
Q. Your films seem to be focusing more on culture. Is this a gap you have identified?
A. That is true. My genre is culture. Like I said it is important to document our cultural events so that our great grandchildren can learn our past way of life, especially as we are now more into western culture.
There is a growing recognition and concern that we may be losing touch with our culture as a people. Culture is slowly dissipating into vague memory with its only stalwarts being the elderly of the generation. As soon as the torchbearers pass on from this world so will our culture!
Q. Now, let’s talk about your career as a news anchor. What was it like appearing on national television for the first time?
A. When I first came here, I was into production.
I was an assistant producer and cameraperson of Sedibeng and other programmes.
I then became Tshamekang, Sports Hive producer and sports news reporter.
That is how I was introduced to newsroom. In 2005 Toms and Foundation consultants came to our newsroom and they suggested news be read by two people, the main anchor and sports anchor.
I was never auditioned but it so happened that when they were testing the lights they said my skin looked good on television and that was it. The first day I was shivering!
Q. How do you handle the fame?
A. It is not easy. People expect you to live life of high standard.
I do not let that get into my head and I have not changed my behaviour or put undue pressure on myself.
Q. Any embarrassing incidents live on air?
A. When you are live, it is not like we wear fully formal.
There was one time where a camera accidentally showed my bottom part and I was wearing shorts but up top I was wearing a shirt and blazer.
I was so embarrassed to receive messages and calls from my friends who were watching the news.
I was very lucky because a lot of people were not active on social media like they are today otherwise it was going to go viral!
Q. Who is the one person that you get nervous about interviewing?
A. When I interviewed President Lieutenant Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama for the first time I had a freak! I do not know why – maybe it was because of his position.
It was during the Lady Khama Charitable event.
I was the first person to show him playing football.
I had to call Isaac Kgosi and ask if it was alright to air the story and refer to him as Super – I was eventually given go ahead.
Q. Who is your inspiration?
A. Richard Quest an English journalist and a CNN International anchor and reporter, based in New York City.
Q. You mentioned that you took a break from work and started farming.
What advice can you give young farmers?
A. Farming needs full commitment which is why at some point I decided to quit my job and focusing on establishing it.
It has its own challenges. In Rakops we have a problem of Foot and Mouth disease. For the longest time Rakops has been a red zone and we couldn’t sell to the European Union.
In 2009 we were allowed to sell to the EU and I decided to start farming but there was an outbreak of the disease again.
We are not making profit in Non EU areas. A farmer in Lobatse will be selling P25 per kg whilst I will be selling at P21.
Q. What advice would you give to upcoming film-makers?
A. Let’s be employers.
The government is not helping in the arts and there are no jobs.
Film can help you to earn a living.
Let’s have syndicates across the world – technology has made communication easy.
Know the right people in the industry and participate in film festivals.
Nigerians make money from selling movies and some of them are not of high production value, just shooting on a weekend but they still sell.
They should make products of conceptual relevance to our day-to-day lives to attract clients.
Q. Thank God is Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
A. My job is very hectic so this weekend I will be free and I am going to the farm.