Bongani Mlambo is standing in the light. His camera is set to capture it—but not just the light. It will also catch the shadow and softness and the way it all plays on the actor’s face as he walks into it.
“The varying properties of brightness and darkness can evoke different emotions and psychological responses in person or even when watching them on a screen,” he says. “In my work as a cinematographer, the goal is to create the right combination to direct one’s attention and achieve the desired effect.”
Mlambo, a 2010 film/video graduate, has made a steady rise in his career ever since graduation. In 2015, he worked on his first feature film, Three Days in August. His second feature film, All Creatures Here Below—starring David Dastmalchian and Karen Gillan—is now in post-production.
“Movies, specifically, I consider a unique art form because they incorporate the best of multiple disciplines, crafts, and talents to create an immersive experience and story,” he says. “The feat of creating memorable ones is challenging, and working on great projects can inspire.”
Three days in august was mlambo’s first job as cinematographer on a feature. his work has been praised for its “stunning artistry.”
He was driving through the mountains when the big call finally came. Johnathan Brownlee, Three Days' director, had heard about Mlambo’s work through a mutual friend and wanted to discuss the story behind the movie. They shared their initial thoughts and ideas for visuals, and quickly discovered they were on the same page. Mlambo was hired.
“Since it was my first feature, I felt a lot of pressure to do it well,” Mlambo says. “I spent as much time as possible trying to understand the characters, the emotions, and the arc of the film. I wanted to be true to that in how we shot it.”
The film was shot in Mineral Wells, Texas, throughout October 2015. Mlambo found himself learning the managerial aspects of cinematography: hiring a crew, scheduling shoots, and keeping everything under budget, to name a few of his many responsibilities.
“Thankfully, we made all of our days on time and had fun doing it,” he says. “We are very happy with how it looks and how it has been received.”
Three Days premiered at the Dallas International Film Festival and opened the La Costa Film Festival in California. The movie will have a theatrical release in December.
You could say that facebook brought mlambo his next gig, all creatures here below.
“Many times, things seem to magically fall into place when the camera starts recording. You hope this happens all the time!”
“I ‘liked’ a friend’s post about an actor, David Dastmalchian, getting attached to a movie she was producing,” he explains. (That friend was Amy Greene, an Arlington native whose father, Richard Greene, is a professor in practice at UTA.) “Two days later, there was an email with the script in my inbox!”
The script was for the feature film All Creatures Here Below, which would star Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight) and Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy). After an hour-long Skype meeting with Collin Schiffli, the director, and another in-person meeting in Los Angeles, Mlambo got the job.
“It was a magical moment,” he says. “I really wanted to work on the film because the story was gripping, stirring, and emotional. I wanted the creative challenge to do it justice and bring it to life.”