Lucky is a crowd-pleasing, heart-warming tale that features an orphan who leaves his tiny South African village to make a life for himself in the big city. But despite being told to go to his deadbeat uncle for help, the boy finds that the only person willing to help him is an elderly woman of Indian descent, who still harbors the racist feelings that South Africans of all stripes sharpened during Apartheid. It’s an analysis of modern South Africa’s milieu of now “equal” races and how they interact with each other, and between the rural-urban divide.
Director Avie Luthra recently answered a few of my questions via email.
Do I have it right that this story was based on a shorter film? If so, tell me about the process of teasing out a feature from a short?
Yes, the short was produced by myself and Bex Hopkins in 2006 and it was very successful. The process involved many awards and festival screenings and the general desire to make a feature was very strong. I started writing this around that time but put it down to make another film. Then I returned to it in 2009.
The process of conversion from a short to feature was mostly a process of finding the rest of the story. I don’t believe stories are ever complete, just that they should take you to a certain point which feels satisfying. With the short, I was never satisified I achieved that but I certainly feel that with the feature.
Is there a problem in South Africa with relatives or others taking in orphans in order to get their money?
It is a problem but a minor one in South Africa. The government uses this as a reason to not hand out the grant which is very divisive. The grant is important and essential for many families and it is important to know that what I represent in my film is only the practice of a small minority.
Not many Americans realize that South Africa has a large Indian population. How were they treated during apartheid? Is racism between blacks and Indians still prevalent? How do they fare amongst white citizens?
The Indians had a mixed role in Apartheid, some being actively involved and some not. The other questions are difficult to answer as they are complex.
How are rural South Africans treated by the urban people? Are they able to rise up, or are they better off staying in their home villages?
There is a big drive to develop a middle class in South Africa and the transit from rural to city has been a staple of the county’s history. The work, like most developing/developed societies, is in the cities. Again, the issue of remaining in the rural communities is a big issue in South Africa and a complex debate.
Lucky screens on Friday, January 27, 8:05 a.m., at the Metro 4, and again on Wednesday, February 1, 4:30 p.m., at the Lobero, and Thursday, February 2, 4 p.m. at the Arlington.