(Tribute issued on behalf of the Ahmed Family by Sharlene Versfeld)
It was with deep sadness that the family of the celebrated South African film-maker Junaid Ahmed, announced his death at Umhlanga Hospital on November 1, 2016, after a short illness.
“Junaid was an extraordinary man who touched the lives of so many. Family, friends and colleagues got Junaid’s attention in equal measure and with generosity, love and passion. His passing is untimely and we have lost a dear, loved one but we believe too that this country has lost a man of drive, stature and integrity. He constantly expressed to those closest to him, how much more he would like to do in our growing democracy. We are thankful for the messages of support and condolences and trust that his legacy lives in the work he leaves behind, in those he has mentored and in those who have been moved by his boundless warmth and his humane vision,” says family spokesperson Jay Pather.
Born in Durban in 1959, Junaid went to Southlands High School and graduated from the University of Durban Westville in the 1980’s with BA (Honours) degree in Drama.
Junaid’s passion was always in the creative industries and he had a varied and prolific career in the arts. He produced, workshopped, acted in and directed many theatre productions at various community venues including the Asoka Theatre, the Market Theatre and at the National Arts Festival. He also wrote and directed the acclaimed musical, Bombay Crush, which starred well-known South African actress Kajal Bagwandeen.
A former board member of the National Interim Film Fund Board (now the National Film and Video Foundation), the international award winning director and producer also had a string of successful film projects to his name. His short film highlights include directing The Vow for Miramax and Channel 4 Films. He also produced the short film Lucky, which was screened at over 80 international festivals in 2006 and was nominated for the 2006 British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Best Short film award, and it won Best Short Film at over 40 international film festivals.
He directed the feature film More Than Just A Game for which Sony Pictures International (SPI) acquired the international distribution rights and was broadcast in over 40 countries. Together with Helena Spring, Junaid was, at the time of his death, producing a slate of nine films supported by the NFVF. The first of these - Hard To Get - opened the 2014 Durban International Film Festival, and was released in cinemas later that year. Then in February this year, their co-produced film Happiness is a Four Letter Word (with Khanyi Mbau, Renate Stuurman and Mmabatho Montsho in lead roles) was the best performing film of all new releases, in South Africa on its opening weekend. They were currently working on their next film Keeping up with the Kandasamys directed by Durban’s Jayan Moodley, which is in post-production.
He was very involved with the General of the Congress of South African Writers (COSAW) for some time, he edited poetry anthologies and his articles on arts and culture related issues were published in a number of international publications.
He is survived by his wife Liza, sons Tariq and Jarred and daughter Taegen.