Stars of school and screen

The lives of three teenagers are at the heart of the Yellow Card love story. Tiyane Tsumba is looking for love and recognition. He finds affection from classmate Linda Karombo but he does not love her. Instead he falls head over heels for a girl across town, Juliet Bester.

Finding the actors to play these parts took the casting team on a search of more than thirty schools in greater Harare. The first meetings sifted about 150 youngsters out of at least three thousand hopefuls. Advertising on press and radio brought in hundreds more aspiring actors who were all tested and interviewed on video.

Actors & Makers

After two months of intensive work, the balance of the film came down to three lead actors.

Leroy Gopal, who landed the very demanding lead role of Tiyane in Yellow Card, was no stranger to acting. He had appeared in two films before this - Adventure Unlimited in 1996 and Choose Freedom in 1998, both of them Christian films about teenage lifestyles.

Leroy's natural ebullience, sense of humour and outgoing personality at first made him the front-runner for the role of Nocks, a major supporting role. After trooping through the casting rooms a dozen times to read the second lead for Tiyane hopefuls, it suddenly became clear that Leroy was Tiyane. He had natural screen presence needed to endear an audience during ninety minutes on-screen. He was also athletic, an absolute prerequisite for the demanding soccer sequences in Yellow Card. Above all, Leroy's stamina would stand him in stead for the gruelling task of playing in every single scene of the film. Leroy had to be on set every day of the 40 day schedule.

"The one thing that I learned to do was to sustain character. That is what kept me going - to know in detail what I wanted to bring out that day," Leroy says.

Extensive rehearsals gave him the confidence to dig deep into his own resources when he was called to perform a 12 hour working day, day after day. He identified easily with Tiyane's predicament when he makes classmate Linda pregnant. "It's something anybody around the world can relate to and know: it's happening and it's the truth!"

As Leroy said of the film's story: "The talk is real. The action is real."

Leroy liked his character, Tiyane. He said: "He has this courage, this urge to get to the top. He's one person who doesn't let things stand in his way." Leroy liked the way Tiyane's willpower - his need to play top league football, his desire to get the girl of his dreams - landed him in trouble.

"He's only human and sometimes it's hard for him to be honest all the time He is scared to take responsibility - and facing up to having a baby is the thing that might just stop him from having everything he's dreamed of."

Leroy said that young men can relate to his situation. "Teenagers don't want to face their fears. Tiyane is running away from something that is going to catch up with him."

Leroy reckons that parents have a role to play also in making teenagers more open. His own relationship with his mother is very open. "We discuss everything," Leroy says.

Leroy Gopal aims to go into film professionally some day. "One day I want to write my own script and direct my own film." But first he plans to study Psychology at college in the United States from September of 2000.

Born on 6 July, 1979, he is an accomplished athlete and holds the Zimbabwe National Junior High Jump record. His athletic ability was an asset on the set as well. Director John Riber and cinematographer Sandi Sissel both remarked on his outstanding natural movement and camera awareness.

Ratidzo Mambo was seventeen when she was spotted at one of the first auditions. Right away, casting director Andrew Whaley was convinced this was the right girl. Nevertheless, the search continued for another six weeks to see if there might be someone better out there, before Ratty finally landed the role.

Ratidzo was a commercial student at the Dominican Convent. She had acted in numerous school plays and she still rates theatre acting above film. She admits that when she auditioned the first time, she did not take it seriously. "When I was called the second time, I had this faith that this was it!"

She found the role of Linda taxing, but says she would have responded very differently in the same circumstances. "Linda was too soft," she says of her film character. "I felt sorry for her. It felt so cruel the way Tiyane (who dumps her) treated her. She was too much of a victim."

About filming, Ratty says she loved "the whole big mixture of races in the film. That is something I have never done before. But it's exactly what is going on at the moment, in the community."

She hopes that the story of teenage love, pregnancy, HIV and rejection will touch fellow teenagers "and change how they act."

The role of Juliet in the film took longer than all the others to cast. Plenty of beautiful young women, some of them top southern African models, auditioned but none really fitted the role, until the casting director, unpacking his memory of seven weeks of auditions, suddenly remembered a quiet, young woman from a much earlier casting session at a Harare school. In desperation, he ransacked his notebooks till he found the name.

He called Kasamba Mkumba. "By that stage we had already decided on our male lead, Leroy Gopal," said casting director Andrew Whaley. "When Kasamba auditioned, I immediately thought she had the sensitivity to do it. John Riber liked her. She was interesting, adventurous and spirited. And when she teamed up with Leroy Gopal, it became obvious why Tiyane would fall for her. There was chemistry."

As it turned out, Kasamba could be quiet but she was no timid mouse. She was a rapper called KTG. She earned her Drama badge at the Dominican Convent where in 1999 she was voted Most Popular Girl in the Upper Sixth. She designed and made her own funky clothes and she exhibited an individual dress sense that made her stand out from her contemporaries.

The daughter of a Russian mother and a ??? father, she had an international upbringing. She is certainly non-conformist.

Kasamba has left school and is currently working as a hair stylist in Cape Town. She doesn't know yet what she will do with her life but her sassy instinct for fashion, hair and make-up is likely to lead her in that direction. Kasamba was born on November 16 1981. She has a younger brother and an older sister.