The GQ Young, Gifted and Black Series is an ode to men and women of colour who are unapologetically living out their dreams, following their drum beat and doing it successfully.
Lindo Langa is an enthusiastic (albeit socially awkward) young director with a strong passion for film. This wunderkind was born and raised in sunny Durban on a diet of Goodfellas, Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and Singin’ In The Rain. These titles helped forge the filmmaker he is today.
After graduating cum laude from AFDA Durban he worked as second unit director on Africa’s first-ever Netflix original Queen Sono at the age of 23. Langa went on to direct emotive and innovative commercials for Johnnie Walker global, Samsung, Lay’s, African Bank, Ford and many more with his current production house Seriti Films.
He has directed music videos for Sho Madjozi, Anatii, AKA, Ami Faku, and Black Coffee Live In Sterkfontein Caves, among others.
Lindo is always looking to refine his craft on more commercials, series, music videos and ultimately transitioning to features. With a deep passion for cinema, he has a knack for visual storytelling and hopes to imbue all his future projects with an air of childlike wonder that will make you believe in magic again.
GQ had a chat with Lindo to discuss his career as a director and what keeps him going.
GQ: What does being black mean to you?
Lindo Langa: To me being black means making the most of the opportunities given to me, for me, blackness is an experience made up of turning lack of resources and opportunity into abundance.
GQ: What are some of the books you’ve read that have really stuck with you/that have had an impact and help shape the way you think and see yourself as a young, gifted black person?
LL: I grew up reading a lot of fiction as a kid that stayed with me however the texts that stayed with me the most were scripts. Tarantino, Wes Anderson and Spike Lee all played a role in shaping my voice as a filmmaker. Malcom X may be the best written script I’ve ever read, the commitment to prose and celebration of unapologetic blackness has stayed with me ever since I read it.
GQ: What are the three things you are most grateful for?
LL: My Family, Cinema as an art form and the wonderful mentors who paved the way for me to do what I love everyday.
GQ: Being a black creative is at times associated with lack of business sense, as a successful creative of colour how do you take such criticism in your strides?
LL: These misconceptions are for the most part built off of racist old ideals, I like to think my entire existence in the creative world is a rejection of thinking like that. Loving the craft enough to master it knowing that I have to be twice as diligent as my peers who aren’t black is something that I’ve done throughout my career.
GQ: Most creatives of colour complain about the lack of access to opportunities, how would you advise other young black creatives on how to handle the challenge of putting their work out there?
LL: I think it’s really important to create opportunities for yourself by being relentless with your craft. It’s never been easier to create art and I think social media is the great equaliser. All the resources for becoming an actual filmmaker are on YouTube for instance, I still google things I’m not sure of in regards to directing sometimes and I’m a firm believer in speaking out your dreams, the universe has a funny way of making the things you work for real.
GQ: In your own words, how has being a person of colour set you back both personally and professionally?
LL: Being a person of colour hasn’t set me back per se, however when we were coming up there was a tangible sense of finality to the creative journey. We didn’t have a trust fund or a plan B, we needed to be excellent to secure bursaries because film school is a luxury.
There is a safety net that comes with wealth and because wealth in this country is split racially the black experience is directly linked to a severe lack of it. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything, I’m proud to have built a name for myself through hard work and love of the craft.
GQ: How can we create a better future for the next generation? Of all colour/gender and orientation?
LL: I think it’s so important to create space for the next generation, sharing lessons and tangible opportunities. Paying young creatives for their work is paramount, creating an environment that promotes being true to yourself is vital and finally, being intolerable to the gatekeeping of the past, there’s enough for all of us and we have to be as inclusive as possible.
GQ: What does Black Excellence mean to you?
LL: Black excellence to me is the ability to inspire others through my craft. That’s it.
GQ: What are some of the pressures that come with being a black person in a position of influence and power, and how do you maneuver them?
LL: I think there’s this pressure on black creatives to achieve massive wins consistently at a really young age. We’re constantly forced to push and I think that can be exhausting, I manoeuvre this pressure by focusing on the things I love about the craft of filmmaking rather than the praise and validation that comes from the work.
GQ: What are the things you love the most about being black in your industry?
LL: Being black allows me the opportunity to tell stories my people can resonate with. I love the idea of putting black faces on-screen in worlds that we were historically left out of, I’d like to be a cinematic revisionist in that sense.
GQ: To you what does it mean to be young, gifted and black?
LL: To be young, gifted and black is to be unapologetically you, proud of where you come from and still boldly paving a way forward. The privilege to be able to do what I love everyday at such a young age is something I’d never take for granted and I think being the youngest and blackest person in the room with a position of power is a great responsibility.
GQ: How do you measure success?
LL: Success to me is not having to wash the dishes after Christmas lunch. No jokes. When that day comes I’ll know I’ve made it.
GQ: As a person of colour what kept you going even though things were not easy?
LL: I have such an incredible support structure around me, supportive family and friends who’ve believed in my dreams since I was 4 years old. My mother is a major inspiration to me, she is unwavering in her support of everything I do. Having a black woman like her and my family behind me it’s very hard to give up.
GQ: What inspired you to do what you do?
LL: My grandmother would put Star Wars on the VHS for me as a toddler so she could go bake in peace. From the first time I saw R2D2 and C3PO on Tattooine, there was this magic that the film had that captured me and made me want to crawl into the screen, I’ve been chasing that feeling my whole life I guess… I still get the same excitement when I frame up a shot to this day.