Behind The Chicco-Bongani Feud Over Ma Brrr Biopic

Bongani Fassie says Chicco Twala "messed up" his chance to produce the film.
Sello Chicco Twala, long-time manager and friend to Brenda Fassie.
Sello Chicco Twala, long-time manager and friend to Brenda Fassie.

Veteran South African musician and producer Sello Chicco Twala says he is not worried about Showbizbee's statements that the Brenda Fassie biopic will go on without him -- because it won't.

On Wednesday, the production company tweeted that it is going ahead with the production of the movie, despite Twala's legal action to stop it.

Responding to the tweet, Twala said he was not fazed.

"Showbizbee is in London and we're in South Africa, and our law will sort them, so I'm not worried. They can say whatever they like, but I believe in our courts and judiciary system. I'll meet all of them in court," Twala said.

Last week, the UK-based production company announced – in partnership with local artist management company Legaci Nova Entertainment – that a movie based on the life of the late queen of African pop was in the works and would hit screens later this year.

The film is set to be shot in Johannesburg and Langa in Cape Town from next month.

The fact that people want to cast now and start filming next month already is a problem.Chicco Twala

Challenging the production

Speaking to HuffPost, Twala said that without understanding where he's coming from, people have been quick to publicly accuse him of being after monetary gains.

"Contrary to what many think, I'm not after money, I am actually looking out for Brenda Fassie's legacy – and I have the best interests of Brenda's legacy at heart. These people [Showbizbee] will never do justice to her, because they simply know nothing about her. I want to do the film, and I don't care if I do it for free, as long as the true story of Brenda comes out," he said.

Twala said he was already in the process of making a Brenda Fassie biopic and had already sought out the services of the renowned South African novelist, poet and playwright Zakes Mda to head the writing and research for it.

"We also had an actress who'd be playing the role of Brenda and for the past 18 months, she'd been rehearsing, researching and getting into character. She's still not done. So how do these people think they can cast [and] shoot in just a month, and then release the movie in the same year? It's madness," he said.

"Chicco had been given first preference and non-exclusive rights to produce the movie, but messed up"– Bongani Fassie

On Sunday, Twala told City Press that he has all the rights to Fassie's music, which he wrote and produced, and is taking legal action to stop the release of any film made about her life.

He's since told HuffPost that music rights aside, his first priority is to have her story being told "the way it was".

"My agreements and contracts aside, yes, I want justice – because my music played a very important role. But also, a Brenda Fassie movie must reflect her story as she lived it, and I don't trust that as things stand now, anyone can do that without even involving myself and the other people she worked closely with, [whom] I know were not consulted," Twala said.

Twala, who was Fassie's manager and producer prior to her death, said he wrote and produced about 75 percent of her songs.

Bongani's response

In his capacity as the film's executive producer, Fassie's son Bongani criticised Twala's attempt to block the film from going ahead.

During an interview with Power FM, he said Twala did not own either the singer or her family.

"Chicco does not own Brenda. He doesn't own the Fassie family. He does not own any of us. We give him to God," he said.

He also said that Twala had been given first preference and non-exclusive rights to produce the movie, but "messed up".

"He has no leg to stand on. The agreements were terminated and he had many years to do something and didn't. The movie will be continuing with Showbizbee," Bongani said.

The 33-year-old said as Fassie's sole heir, he owns 100 percent of her estate.

He said Twala is more than welcome to still be part of the making of the movie, despite him not having the rights.

"I'm doing what mommy would have wanted me to do," he said.

You can listen to his full interview here.

"Avoiding flops"

But Twala said South Africans deserve better.

"Let's not allow this movie to be one of those failed biopics. We can't allow this to be another 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom', which I think was a big flop. This is what will happen if we allow the production to go ahead. [Showbizbee] must respect South Africans," he said.

"The fact that people want to cast now and start filming next month already, is a problem. It took Jamie Foxx a long time to prepare for his role in 'Ray'. Angela Basset did not just start shooting for her role as Tina Turner in the biopic 'What's Love Got To Do With It' overnight. These things take time. We cannot accept mediocrity," Twala said.


Twala said his dedication to Fassie, her career and her family will not let him rest until justice is served.

"Even if it means making the film from my own pocket, I can do it. I would not end there – I would put whatever money this film makes into a trust to secure the future of Brenda's family," Twala said.

Before You Go