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Article by Saturday Star

Updated: Jul 12, 2022

#aTypicalInterview: Robert dos Santos on ditching the court robe to become a director

By Sameer Naik Jun 6, 2021

Johannesburg – This week we feature international award winning film and television commercials’ director Robert dos Santos.

Dos Santos has directed major productions for international brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Warner Music Group.

He’s been nominated for over 15 awards locally and internationally including in the US, UK, France, and Canada. Dos Santos has won awards in Seattle and in Croatia, for his Mercedes fashion film where they beat Hugo Boss, YSL, and Miu Miu.

He started directing two years ago at the age of 30. Prior to that, Dos Santos worked as an attorney in a corporate and commercial law firm in Sandton, Johannesburg.

Q: You are able to cast any actor and actress in your latest movie. Who do you choose to cast and why?

A: Philip Seymour Hoffman. His performances are electrifying and even when just in bit parts he had the chops to steal a scene. You would learn more about directing in a day watching an actor like that than you could in a lifetime of theory. Sigourney Weaver. One of the strongest female leads to have ever graced the screens. She made being a badass woman a good thing and we need more of that.

Q: Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese?

A: Quentin Tarantino for dialogue. Martin Scorsese for edit.

Q: You can choose to shoot a film in any location around the world. Where do you choose to shoot?

A: If I found myself on Korriban I would know that I had done something right.

Q: The one thing that people don’t know about Robert dos Santos is...?

A: I used to be a practising attorney, court robe and all.

Q: The best decision you have made in your life is....?

A: To hang up the robe and become a director.

Q: What makes a great filmmaker....?

A: I'll let you know when I get there.

Q: Your favourite restaurant to eat out at? And what do you order?

A: Nu. Smoothies bring joy to my heart.

Q: If you had the opportunity to make a biographical film about any South African, who would you choose to make the film on and why?

A: As an attorney it would have to be a close look at the life of Nelson Mandela during the years in which he set up his law firm with Oliver Tambo up until the Rivonia trial where he delivered the words: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

The idea of someone being so passionate about a cause that they are prepared to go to any lengths to achieve their goal, to the point of sacrificing their own life, is possibly the height of human greatness. Setting up the first black law firm as an attorney, he must have intended to play by the rules but something happened along the way which made him ignore the rules and become a criminal in the eyes of the law. This change and the birth of a revolutionary is awe inspiring. Whereas The Long Walk To Freedom looked at his life with a wide lens, I would want to get in close and place the years prior to this event under a microscope and see exactly what caused someone to give up everything so that we could have a better future.

Q: Your biggest regret in life is....?

A: I am so incredibly privileged and fully aware of it. I could not possibly dream of having any regrets in this lifetime.

Q: A well-known cocktail bar wants to pay tribute to you with a cocktail in your honour. You get to choose the ingredients. What are the main ingredients?

A: Just throw some bananas and peanut butter together to make me a smoothie and we all good.

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