Private Project

Runs In The Family

When modest tailor and single Indian dad, Varun (Ace Bhatti), is called to break his long-lost white ex-girlfriend, Monica (Diaan Lawrenson), out of a rehab clinic across the country, he and their transgender son, River (Gabe Gabriel), take a road trip across South Africa to rescue her. Varun tells stories of his adventurous past with Monica as he and River jump the border fence and hitchhike in eSwatini with a kind and fiery stranger, Shaunice (Loren Loubser). Finally, they reach the rehab clinic where the receptionist, Hloni (Faniswa Yisa) takes some convincing before finally releasing Monica to the father-son duo. Tensions are high as the dysfunctional new family unit adjusts on their way back home where River is set to compete with his best friend, Ollie (Cleo Wesley), in a once-in-a-lifetime drag competition that could win him his long-awaited gender-affirming surgery, so long as no con artists from Varun and Monica’s wild past with their old friend and mafia man Stan (Rob van Vuuren) get in their way.

  • Ian Gabriel
    Four Corners, Forgiveness, Ludik
  • Gabe Gabriel
    No Hiding Here
  • Amina Thornton
  • Ace Bhatti
    Key Cast
    Bohemian Rhapsody, East Enders
  • Diaan Lawrenson
    Key Cast
    Raaiselkind, Semi-Soet, Ludik, 7de Laan
  • Rob van Vuuren
    Key Cast
    The Mauritanian, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Ludik, Resident Evil, Abraham Lincoln, Warrior
  • Gabe Gabriel
    Key Cast
    The Dark Tower
  • Loren Loubser
    Key Cast
    Recipes for Love and Murder, No Hiding Here, Nativity
  • Faniswa Yisa
    Key Cast
    Skin, Knuckle City, Holiday in the Wild
  • Khadija Heeger
    Key Cast
    Die Byl, Atlantis
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Comedy, Family, LGBTQ+
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 46 minutes 55 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    December 8, 2022
  • Production Budget:
    325,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    South Africa
  • Country of Filming:
    South Africa
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Ian Gabriel

Ian Gabriel was the first director of colour to open an independent, director owned film production company in South Africa.

‘In every story, there’s the right emotion – find that and the concept will land with clarity and resonance.' Testament to this are Ian Gabriel’s award-winning commercials and critically acclaimed feature films.

Ian continues to direct cutting edge award-winning commercials and combines this with evolving feature film work. Ian’s feature project Four Corners, was the South African Official Submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, was awarded both Best International Feature and Best Feature (USA) at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, won Best Film at the 2014 Niagara Integrated Film Festival, was Best International Film nominee at the 2014 IPA awards and was Best Film Runner-up at Giffoni in Italy in 2015. Four Corners was the winner of 6 Golden Horn Awards including the Best Picture Award at the 2015 SAFTA Awards. In that year the SAFTA Golden Horn award for Best Actor was awarded to first-time feature film actor 13-year-old Jezriel Skei, the lead player in Four Corners. Jezriel Skei remains the youngest award winner in the history of this category.

Ian Gabriel’s debut feature Forgiveness won the Best South African Film Award and the Best African Film Award, was a Golden Leopard nominee at the 2004 Locarno Film Festival, and was winner, in the same year of the Locarno Youth Jury Best Film Award as well as Ian being a recipient of the Human Rights Award at the 57th Locarno International Film.

Ian has collaborated with celebrity talent as diverse as human rights icon and activist Nelson Mandela and Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, celebrities such as Charlize Theron, Cristiano Ronaldo, Alek Wek, Haile Gebresellasie, and Hudson River aviation hero Chesley Sullenberger. In his role as founder-director at Giant Films Ian has been a noted collaborator and mentor for new talent which he has consistently promoted, yielding a strongly youth, black and women-based Giant Films director roster with 5 female directors and four directors of colour.

Ian is concept originator and development partner with 2018 Academy Award nominee Joslyn Barnes on the historic Africa based TV Series Sabela Gold, written by his long time collaborator Gabe Gabriel. Ian is also in development on several other feature and TV projects, most notably ‘Anne Frank & Me’ written by Gabe Gabriel and Matthew Weiss based on the play and novel of the same name by Cherie Bennett and is attached director on Death of a Whistleblower slated for production by 2022.

Ian is a Directors Guild member as well as being a participant in the Directors Guild of America Diversity program.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

We — Ian Gabriel, director and Gabe Gabriel, writer of Runs in the Family, are also father and son. So far, we’ve never yet seen a representation of a relationship like ours, on film. So we decided to create one. A positive one. A familiar yet untold heartfelt father-son family road trip comedy…

Every time you decide to make a film, it’s something new, a rebirth. That is the most promising aspect for any discussion of the film maker’s vision: that something new and not seen before will be given the chance to evolve. The magic of film offers up hoped for opportunities: We dream that the contours and shapes of what will eventually appear on film (often drawn frankly from the shadows of imagination and events and memories in our past) will begin to take recognisable form so that eventually shadows and thoughts, colour and textures can start to fill the outlines on screen, with emotion and substance and meaning for the audience. And so with strong intention, often sketchy ideas and thoughts can deliver flickering images emerging out of darkness, of family and the comedy of family, causing remembered feelings of joy and regret to magically come to life. Then we hand these shadows with their colouring over to the audience and invite them to see - and hopefully recognise - some of the memories and thoughts of your own life, reimagined, binding us all together in the democratic dreamworld of cinema.

Runs in the Family is a very small ensemble movie, with every character in our narrative drawn as authentically and as eager to be seen, as we have found it possible to do. Our intention with this film has been to open our gaze as filmmakers to one another, and to encourage our audience to do the same. To give a voice, possibly with a little less sugar-coating than in the mainstream, to characters who may sometimes be invisible, little- or less-represented on screen than we would wish for.

Our hope is a simple one: that we can expand the sum total of understanding and acceptance of the idea that everything is possible, especially within family.

River is the son in our narrative, but is in many ways the catalyst and teacher, keen to guide his dad (and perhaps the audience) through the lessons to be learnt and visions to be had of a nonbinary world. A growing number of families find themselves in a position in this newly accepting society, where the chance to find and model acceptance and love can be seized. Hence, this gentle but necessary political statement about acceptance that we’re making with this film, is so deeply worth expressing and holding onto. That is one of the reasons it was important for us to be sure that the trans role of River should be played by a trans actor – so that that actor could offer absolute authenticity and truth for the audience to accept and understand.

As you watch this film of a dysfunctional family we hope that you enjoy the trip and find some universals that can perhaps apply to your life or to the life of those you care about. And beyond that we hope you have a good time for an hour and a half immersing yourself in a small gesture from our world.