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Mandela 100 icon, Mo Matli, chats on the power of storytelling in Advertising

Mandela 100 icon, Mo Matli, chats on the power of storytelling in Advertising

Written by Staff Writer

May 12, 2021

By Charndré Emma Kippie


Mo Matli, a filmmaker from Bloemfontein, in the Free State, is known for her incredible visual sensibilities displayed in her photography, films and storytelling styles. Her subject matter tackles social class, gender equality and sexual orientation through her unflinching gaze on the human condition. The 27-year old woman creative has previously obtained a Diploma in Photography, with the Central University of Technology, a Certificate in Advertising with Umuzi Academy, and has received on-the-job training as a Junior Director, with Fort Film Production Company. A strong believer in crafting work that connects people across barriers, Mo Matl is an adept filmmaker that breaks stereotypes. Drawing inspiration from people’s struggles and their resilient spirit, she is an activist and an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community.  A stranger to no accolades, she is a Mandela 100 icon amongst other recognitions and has had her work showcased in festivals across the world.

Most recently, Mo partnered up with Filmer.tv, to bring a heartwarming Mother’s Day project to life. Working closely with the KFC and Filmer.tv team, her team (called the Senses) won the coveted KFC pitch, and Mo’s ultimate goal was to alter people’s perspective on traditional ‘mother figures’ through her video production and storytelling efforts. Thus far, she has received much praise regarding the Mother’s Day Ad, and sees this milestone as creative fuel going into her next few projects. 

Please tell us a bit about your Mother’s Day collaboration with KFC and Filmer.tv.

It was an honour bringing it to life. Filmer.tv posted a brief on their amazing platform and it was a KFC brief that needed a filmmaker or production company, to create a heartwarming and emotive film that celebrates all mother figures in SA, in a ‘feel-good’ and uplifting tone. My creative partners and I jumped at the opportunity, already feeling like it was our type of story to tell. We call ourselves Senses, and we are a collective of storytellers each with a keen interest in telling authentic South African stories that are real and relatable.

Our idea was to tell a beautiful story showcasing a special relationship with a mother figure, and this is how the concept “To the ones that choose us” came about. We wanted to explore loving motherly relationships that are formed with mothers that are not biologically our parents. The office mamzo, the ma Oledi who sells at the street corner, that high school teacher that always reminded us of our potential, our best friend’s mothers, etc.

This concept sought to bring out those special moments in which these mother figures have taken care of us and we wanted to show our appreciation of all of them, by following our protagonist who has these mother figures in his life that he engages with daily.


What is your vision’ when it comes to video work? How do you hope to make a difference? 

When I think about my true purpose in life, or the fact that I have already found it, my visual storytelling is always at the heart of it because I believe I am a missionary brought here to heal and teach people through my work. 

I believe the lens of a camera can restore what has been lost. What we once had but was taken from us by circumstance and life. It can restore our humanity, our history and the stories we have been taught are not worth telling about ourselves. To simply exist is to protest and I want to capture every moment of it. My work aims to deconstruct barriers that exist between us as a people, by focusing on ordinary people trying to tell their stories and change physical, social, and economic insecurities, one visual at a time. 


Do you find that your field is diversified and inclusive of women video producers? 

I feel that most industries were traditionally dominated by males, but there has been a shift in that, for me, I have found the industry to be inclusive to more women creators if they are truly trying to showcase a unique voice in the work they create. I also believe as women video creators we can almost try to meet the industry halfway by being okay with putting our work out there, branded or not, so that industry peeps and everyday people engage with it. This way, we are top of mind when the industry reveals new opportunities that we may contribute towards. 


What excites you the most about the work that you do? 

The ability to have someone appreciate or be appreciated for who they are and where they come from, through storytelling, is something truly special and exciting for me. I am always in awe of our power as storytellers.


What life mantra/inspirational quote do you live by? 

“We honour the dream by doing the work.” 


What 3 tips do you have when it comes to creating impactful video content for consumers?
  1. Your storytelling must be an authentic reflection of the people it is representing and/or serving.
  2. It must make YOU feel something first, as the video creator, before anyone else.
  3. The story can have different target audiences, however, the understanding of its message should not only be exclusive to the people it’s intended for.


Have you discovered any resources that have inspired you?
  • The 30-Second Storyteller by Thomas Richter
  • Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics by Michael Rabiger
  • Film Courage (YouTube Channel)
  • Believe you can – The Power of a Positive Attitude by John Mason


What have been some of your proudest career accomplishments thus far? 

I am proud of the latest KFC Mother’s Day Ad we created – My mother said it gives her goosebumps. I am also proud to have won the Trace TV filmmaking competition in 2020, and honoured to have been named one of the 100 Mandela’s of the future, back in 2018. I am also proud of how I have nurtured my storytelling abilities. 


Outside of work, are you involved in any extracurricular activities and/or community outreach projects? 

I have been lucky to be a part of and do work for organisations that aim to truly uplift disadvantaged communities. When I am in these spaces, I try to do more than just be the person filming, but also teach the people who are interested in what I do a thing or two, who have helped me since I started. I am also heavy into fitness, and one of the things I aim to do with it is show people that it is not exclusive to a certain type of person, but it is all about effort and effort can feel and look different on different days.


What tips do you have for aspiring storytellers?
  • Don’t be too cool to take advice, criticism, or ask for help.
  • Strive for the right decisions to open the right doors for you.
  • Remember everyone who has been with you through your journey; friends become dope collaborators, mentors, and potential business partners.
  • Be genuine, be kind, and always be willing to help where you can.
  • Don’t be afraid of grinding and doing the hard work. 


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*Interested in discovering more inspiring stores about Top Women? Check out the 16th edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication on Issuu – Digital Publishing Platform – here.






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