Starring Khabonina Qubeka, Khanyi Mbau, Gugu Zulu, Mandisa Nduna and Aubrey Poo, to name a few, ‘She is King’ is a joyous celebration of Zulu culture in a glossy contemporary setting, and showing off the City of Gold as the Broadway of Africa. It also features DJ Shimza, flamboyant singer Moonchild and hip-hop star Ifani. The film opens in cinemas on 1 December, just in time for the holiday season.

Directed by Gersh Kgamedi, ‘She is King’ tells the story of Khanyisile (Gugu Zulu), a talented singer, dancer and actor who wants to be a star. She travels from her home in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal, to audition for a new musical to be staged at the Joburg Theatre, based on the life of powerful Zulu Queen Mkabayi ka Jama. She was a queen who played a major role in Zulu history, deposing various kings and helping them ascend to the throne; her power and influence were felt during this time which was of great historical importance to the Zulu nation.

After a couple of detours, Khanyisile lands a role in the chorus and catches the eye of the best-looking dancer in the show, the charming Luyanda (Mbuso Kgarebe). Khanyisile quickly has to learn to keep up with her more seasoned fellow performers, avoid the jealous machinations of the aging leading lady, and survive the punishing rehearsal schedule to make it to opening night and shine like the star she is.

“‘She is King’ stars a strong combination of well-known local faces and exciting newcomers,” says director Gersh. “It tells the aspirational story of a young woman, burning with talent and ambition, who is prepared to fight hard for her place in the sun. It’s all stylish Africanism, deeply rooted in the depth and beauty of Zulu culture, and playing out in a modern day setting that will thrill young people.”

A showcase for South African music, the film includes songs by international stars like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Juluka and Brenda Fassie, as well as a number of traditional Zulu musicians. The first single – a reworked version of the Brenda Fassie hit Higher and Higher, sung by Gugu Zulu and Mandisa Nduna – has dropped. Talented singer, songwriter and actress Gugu Zulu made it to the Top 16 of Idols SA this year, while rapper Mandisa Nduna is an award-winning stage, film and television actress who rose to fame in the film ‘Between Friends’, and is also known to television audiences as Thuli in e.tv’s ‘Hustle’. 

“We wanted a large ensemble cast that represents a variety of young Zulu women,” says Gersh. “The film is essentially about a young woman finding herself within her culture. In addition to Khanyisile we have Bongi (Sihle Mooi), a fiercely traditional, bubbly young woman; Zethu (Mandisa Nduna), tattooed and androgynous; and Katherine (Zoe Mthiyane), a cheese-girl ballerina who is detached from her Zulu background.”

A number of new tracks will be released leading up to the opening of ‘She is King’ on 01 December.

‘She is King’ had its première on 26 October at the Joburg Theatre. Packed with celebrities, the red-carpet event proved to be a hit with music and movie fans who came out in all their finery for the glitzy evening.

The film was made with the support of the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) and the Gauteng Film Commission (GFC), and will be distributed in South Africa by Indigenous Film Distribution.