Thursday, September 30, 2004

SABC poll proved whites have phones

Sometimes we South Africans still have allot to be ashamed about. Kwailawai* likes Steve Hofmeyer but....

Steve Hofmeyr is one of the Greatest South Africans yet the 18th century's own Madiba gets ignored? Please! Writes Max du Preez in the Star.

It was a good idea. It could have helped South Africans so much in their process of trying to identify with a shared past. Instead, the SABC's programme on the hundred greatest South Africans has turned out to be a huge embarrassment for the public broadcaster.

The only thing it proves is that white South Africans have telephones. Not that it's the SABC's fault, really. It was the fault of the silly producers who thought one could do an experiment like that in the South Africa of 2004 by asking the public to vote. It was skewed even before the voting started: most white South Africans do have telephones, cellphones and access to the Internet; most black South Africans don't.

I'm trying to be generous here, but really, Eugene Terre'Blanche, Steve Hofmeyr, Brenda Fassie, Hansie Cronje, DF Malan and Hendrik Verwoerd among this nation's one hundred greatest citizens? In our entire history?

They were newsmakers, not great people. And if we wanted a list of newsmakers, where are Eugene de Kock, Dirk Coetzee, Wouter Basson or Gideon Nieuwoudt? What about Andre Stander, Colin Chauke or some of the serial killers and rapists of the past few years?

These popularity contests can't be taken seriously. On some levels, this kind of popular democracy doesn't really work. If all South Africans were asked today whether most white farmers' land should be taken away and given to landless blacks, my guess is two thirds would say yes.

Yet the list of Great South Africans tells us a lot about our society. Few of those who bothered to vote sat back and thought about South Africans as one nation, trying to figure out who had made a difference, a contribution over the past 400 years.

Rather, people voted to get their "own" in the list. We had better vote in our thousands for "our" leaders, otherwise we will be marginalised, they thought. This seems to be especially true of white Afrikaans-speakers.

On the other hand, if it is true that mostly white people voted, then it must also follow that a lot of them voted for Thabo Mbeki, Desmond Tutu and Winnie Mandela, all among the top ten. It is depressing to see how people mostly voted in racial blocs. We are clearly a very long way away from identifying with the same heroes of our past.

To me, the most surprising omission from the list of 100 was King Moshoeshoe of the Basotho. I spent the past few years researching his life and philosophies for a documentary film for the University of the Free State - to be broadcast on SABC2 at the end of October - and for a popular book on South African history to be published in the same week. I know a bit about the man. I can't imagine anyone more suitable for all South Africans to associate with and vote for.

Any person who really understood Moshoeshoe's role in history would have voted him number two on the list after Nelson Mandela. Moshoeshoe was the Mandela of the 19th century.

It was Moshoeshoe who stabilised South Africa after the tremendous upheavals of the early 1800s, sometimes referred to as the Lifaqane or Mfecane. It was a time of great droughts, of social instability, of conquering chiefs and encroaching colonialism.

Chiefdoms and clans attacked each other from the east coast right up to the highveld, creating a domino effect and incredible human suffering.

Moshoeshoe was the only leader of the time who did not partake in the violence, but took an approach of defending, making peace, rehabilitating and gathering people around him.

Moshoeshoe was a revolutionary diplomat and an extraordinary innovator.

He was never beaten in war, not by the British, the Boers of the Free State, or by the forces of Matuwane, Mzilikazi or Sekonyela.

More than anyone else at the time, he had reason to be arrogant and authoritarian. Yet he remained humble, serving his people with a sense of democracy virtually unknown in the world at the time. He embraced new ideas and technology, yet cherished his people's culture and customs.
In every way he was a man the whole of Africa could look up to - even today. He was a one-man African Renaissance.

But the citizens who voted for the SABC's programme regarded Steve Hofmeyr and Eugene Terre'Blanche as greater contributors to our nation than King Moshoeshoe.

There are other great men and women who should have been among the top 20 who never made it on to the list at all. The great Boer War general and guerrilla leader Christiaan de Wet, for instance. The Khoikhoi leader Autshomao. The extraordinary sage and philosopher Mohlomi. The world-renowned palaeo-anthropologist Philip Tobias. The writer JM Coetzee. Activists Bram Fischer and Helen Joseph.

We missed a great opportunity here. This initiative could have meant so much to us as a nation. We will simply have to explore other ways of finding common historical figures we can all identify with.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Castle breaks the beer mould

This week saw the launch of the new TV campaign for Castle Lager, co-incidentally coinciding with Proudly South African week.

But, as promised, this spot is nothing like the Castle commercials of old. Gone are the back-slapping, beer-drinking, braai-ing, hand-on-heart South Africans, neatly racially mixed to display some politically-correct demographic. Gone too is the signature song, and with it that schmaltzy, patriotic feeling that’s become so much a part of Castle’s advertising over the years.

Enter one man, nine countries, 163 scenes and 300 words – all in 75 seconds. You can’t help but be drawn in. And when you’ve seen it once, you’ll want to see it again.

The reason is simple: it breaks the mould of beer advertising.

Conceptualised by Ogilvy Johannesburg and produced by Kim Geldenhuys of Egg Films, it centres around one man’s travels around the globe, and culminates in his return to South Africa as he realises, “I’m hot, I’m thirsty. I’m a South African and only one thing can satisfy my thirst.”

By: Kim Penstone

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SA doc at Irish festival

The Man Who Stole My Mother's Face will be screened at Iriland's Stranger Than Fiction festival.

Stranger Than Fiction is Ireland's only festival dedicated to documentary film. 25 documentaries, including 10 Irish films, will be screened over the four days of the festival. Topics range from the Arab news channel Al-Jezeera (The Control Room), or a year in the life of a St Petersburg street (Tishe!) to a look at Ireland's sexual history (The Land of Saints and Sinners).

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Monday, September 20, 2004

Films at Toronto have common ties

It was a kinship of themes and moods. Here's a mere sample of films that resonated:

Lisa Kennedy

"Hotel Rwanda" and "The Sea Inside"

Two of the festival's finest movies are based on real people. Cheadle gives a deeply human turn in the heartbreaking and infuriating tale of hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, who during the Rwandan genocide of 1994 saved scores of Tutsis. "The Sea Inside" chronicles the story of quadripeligic Ramon Sampedro, who fought to end his life and embrace the dignity of death.

Javier Bardem won the prize for best male performance at the Venice film festival for his moving performance of a man who for 30 years could not move from the neck down. Thanks to the emotionally precise work of their leads, both movies deliver men, not saints, into our midst.

"Moolaade" and "Yesterday"

One comes from Senegal, the other from South Africa. Together, Ousmane Sembene's masterful story about a Senegalese woman who offers four girls protection from ritual circumcision and Darrell James Roodt's tale of Yesterday, a rural woman diagnosed with AIDS, give dramatic voice to two harsh realities facing African women.

Hotel Rwanda a favourite with festival

Hotel Rwanda, Irish-born filmmaker Terry George's gripping true story of one man who saved thousands of lives during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, has been voted the favourite film of the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival by the people organizers say are the most important, festival moviegoers.

The UK-South Africa-Italy co-production starring Don Cheadle and Nick Nolte won the AGF People's Choice Award at an awards brunch today following the end of the 10-day festival.

Hip-hop artists spread the word

Godessa, from Cape Town, were the only all-female group out of the ten acts, performing at the World Urban Forum. Godessa is on one of South Africa's most inventive record lables, African dope.

Hip-hop artists from across the globe gathered at the World Urban Forum on Wednesday to spread a message to audiences that policy makers and politicians have failed to reach.

Acts from Greenland to South Africa performed in Barcelona as part of a United Nations campaign called The Message, which aims to raise aspirations among inner city children.

'We've jumped from one holocaust to another'

Canadian STEPHANIE NOLEN on the film Yesterday, which opened at the Toronto film festival.

A new South African film is among the first to deal with something other than apartheid, STEPHANIE NOLEN writes. Starring Leleti Khumalo, it focuses on a newer fact of life -- the country's AIDS pandemic

JOHANNESBURG -- Leleti Khumalo was shocked by the script. It was about a woman's life in rural South Africa, much of it built around the water pump in the centre of town, a script about walking miles to the clinic, about gathering firewood and tilling unforgiving soil. It was all, to her black South African ear, perfectly true, and the marvel, for Khumalo, was that it was written by a terribly urban white South African man.

The script was Yesterday, the story of a young woman, named Yesterday through Zulu naming custom, raising her young daughter in a village. She falls ill and learns she has HIV, and realizes she was infected by her husband, a miner who lives in Johannesburg. Yesterday is shunned, scorned, and driven from her village by fearful neighbours, but she is determined to stay alive long enough to see her daughter Beauty start school.

Written and directed by Darrell James Roodt (perhaps known for the adaptation of the anti-apartheid novel Cry, The Beloved Country, starring James Earl Jones), the film stars the luminous Khumalo as Yesterday. It has opened to critical acclaim (although audience reluctance) in South Africa and was warmly received at the Venice Film Festival two weeks ago. It screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on Tuesday, and screens again this morning.

AIDS has been decimating Africa for the past 22 years, but Yesterday is the first mainstream feature film on the pandemic. It shows, more explicitly than is usual in any story about AIDS, how hideously grim and painful it is to die of the disease.

"Why wasn't this movie made 10 years ago?" Roodt mused, talking about the shame and fear that haunts the disease and has largely kept it out of movies, television, art and literature here. "I turned down quite a good offer to make another B-grade piece of shit, and I needed the money, to go and sit under a tree and make this f-ing movie. I thought, 'Enough now. It's time.' "

He headed for KwaZulu-Natal, the region of the country hardest hit by AIDS (as many as 40 per cent of adults are infected with HIV) and drove the winding dirt roads, and loitered, as unobtrusively as possible, in the villages. The result was a script that perfectly echoed the rhythms of Zulu village life as Khumalo (who grew up in the townships of Durban, but retained closed ties to her family village) knew it.

Yesterday, a visually beautiful and achingly simple film, is being noted as the first South African movie that is post-apartheid, finally about something else. And Khumalo suggested that is not an AIDS movie as much as a film about life in South Africa today -- which, for so many people, happens to also mean AIDS. South Africa has the grim title of most-infected nation, with about 5.8-million people living with the virus, and so AIDS is perhaps the inevitable follow from apartheid films -- "we've jumped from one holocaust to another," Roodt noted darkly.

Yesterday is also the first motion picture made in isiZulu, the most widely understood of South Africa's 11 official languages. Roodt, who does not speak isiZulu, wrote the script in English and had it translated. He and producer Anant Singh had originally hoped to film two versions, one in English and one in isiZulu, but Roodt said he realized moments after they started filming that the film had to be in isiZulu. "The actors just . . .," Roodt threw out his arms in a pantomime of blossoming, "they just burst forth."

For Khumalo -- one of the best-known faces of drama in South Africa, who attracts admiring coos and whispers in a Johannesburg cafe -- it was a first and delightful opportunity to act in her native language. "It wasn't like I was acting, I was just telling somebody my life."

Roodt initially wanted to make the movie using "real people," people living with, and dying from AIDS, but, he said, he quickly realized that no one would watch that film. "It's just too brutal," he said. Similarly, he toned down the crammed hospital ward where Yesterday wants to take her dying husband. "The real ward is seething, it's full of death, it assaults you," he said, recalling the hospital he visited doing research.

When they took Yesterday to Venice, Roodt and Khumalo had little idea what to expect. "I wondered, here we are with our Yesterday and it's a South African movie in Zulu and I wonder if these people are going to just march out of the theatre," Khumalo said. "But they stayed until the end of the movie, and they stood up and started to clap and clap. . . ." A week later, she was still radiant at the memory.

While the film may be well-received abroad, there are serious questions about who will see it in South Africa -- it did not do particularly well at the box office in its first week, perhaps a reflection of the country's ongoing state of denial about the AIDS crisis. Singh is negotiating to have South Africa's mining companies show the movie to their work forces. (An estimated 30 per cent of the miners are infected with the virus.) Roodt acknowledged that in today's South Africa, there is an inevitable question about a white filmmaker making what is a "black" story. "I can see the headlines now," he said acerbically. "White Guy Exploits Dying Zulus." But, he said, the reality is that he is the person with the skills to make the movie now. "Ten years from now someone [black] will make the movie and it will be an infinitely better film because it will be made from a deeper truth."

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Fort Lauderdale Film Festival to feature Story of an African farm

Billed as the longest film festival in the world (37 days to Cannes' mere 12), the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival is only a month away, and after last year's absence, it's got a presence again in Palm Beach County. This year festival features one South African feature - The Story of an African farm.

Comics Brew now stewing in Durban

"Comics Brew: An Exhibition of International Comic Art"
2004-09-14 until 2004-10-03
NSA Gallery
Durban, South Africa

This exhibition is part of Comics Brew an international festival of comic art that is being held in Southern Africa from May 2004 to March 2005. Pro Helvetia (Arts council of Switzerland), the French Institute of South Africa and the Royal Netherlands Embassy sponsor this event in association with the Goethe Institute Johannesburg, the University of Stellenbosch and Bitterkomix. Anton Kannemeyer is the festival co-ordinator.

The festival is an initiative to showcase, develop and establish comic strip drawing in Southern Africa. The potential of the medium as an educational tool as well as entertainment has been realized in most European countries, the USA and Japan. Recent developments in Europe and the USA have equated the art form with (high) literature, fine arts and film. The festival aims to bring professional artists, specialists, academics, as well as examples of their work to Southern Africa in order to showcase, stimulate and develop this much neglected art form.

One South African and five international comic strip artists make up the Comics Brew International Exhibition that will be travelling to Johannesburg, Maputo (Mozambique), Durban, Cape Town, Luanda (Angola) and Windhoek (Namibia). The artists are Joe Daly (South Africa), Anna Sommer (Switzerland), Henning Wagenbreth (Germany), Jacques Loustal (France), Willem (the Netherlands) , and Sergé Huo-Chao-Si (Reunion).

Joe Daly (South Africa) studied film animation for two years at City Varsity College in Cape Town before realizing that his passion lies with comics. Since then he has published in Africa Comics (Africa e Mediterraneo, Italy) and Bitterkomix 13. At the end of 2003 he published The Red Monkey: The Leaking Cello Case – a 32 page full colour comic about life in the underside of Cape Town. The Red Monkey was also serialized in SL magazine.

Anna Sommer (Switzerland) completed a pre-diploma course at the Zurich School of Art and Design where she specialized in graphic art. Presently she lives in Zurich where she has been working as a freelance comic strip artist and illustrator since 1996. She has published widely in international magazines such as Die Zeit, NZZ Folio, das Magazin, Du, WoZ, Vibrations, Lapin, L'imbécile deParis, Libération and Strapazin.

Henning Wagenbreth (Germany) received a diploma in graphic design at Kunsthochschule Berlin. During his career he completed a one year residence in Paris, worked as instructor for illustration at the Kunsthochschule Berlin and has been lecturer in Visual Communication at the Hochschule der Künste Berlin since 1994. He has published extensively on an international level, also as graphic artist (esp. posters, book covers and children’s books).

Jacques Loustal graduated in architecture from the School of Beaux-Arts. He currently works as a freelance illustrator for advertising and the press. Travelling forms an integral part of his life and he is internationally renowned for his travel sketchbooks. His other work includes numerous illustrated books, children’s books, graphic novels and editorial illustrations.

Willem was born in 1941 in the Netherlands. He studied in Arnhem and Den Bosch between 1962 and 1967. He has published more than 60 books and has been working since 1985 in Paris for Liberation (newspaper) as political-satarist. His work is often highly controversial because of its unyielding criticism and explicit content.

Sergé Huo-Chao-Si was born in 1968 in Reunion. He is a founding member of the comic group Cri du Margouillat and published extensively in the magazine (le Margouillat) until its end in 2002. His first graphic novel, Cases en Tôle, collects stories from this period. In 2003 he published the acclaimed La Grippe Coloniale with writer Appollo.

For more information about the festival visit

Jaques Loustal

'Bad Boy', Will Smith, wows Jozi

Nadia Neophytou

Some of that Madiba magic and his biggest blockbuster yet prompted the former ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’, Will Smith to make another visit to South Africa.

“The first time I came to South Africa, I sat with Mandela and he got me quite fired up to do something positive. I wanted to quit my job and take to the streets!” says the actor. Fortunately for the movie world, that was not quite the action he ended up taking.

“Mandela said to me, you must understand the power of what you do. World cinema shapes the perceptions and attitudes of children and adults, and lawmakers, the world over, showing what could, or should, be.” Returning home, Smith felt ready to help but still wasn’t quite sure how.

46664 gave him the action to his motive. The idea of using technology to gather funds for Aids research and assistance appeals to Smith, whose new movie ‘I, Robot’ looks at the relationship between humans and technology in the shape of robots.

“With 46664, I feel like there is some importance to my work.” Funds raised from the film’s premiere in SA will also go towards upliftment of Aids survivors.

Smith is currently in South Africa with his wife, Jada Pinkett, and his children.

“I feel good here, I enjoy the people and the energy,” he says. The ‘Bad Boys’ star feels among the action and fun – and a little nudity – of ‘I, Robot’ lies real concepts and themes that viewers can take away with them.

“The themes raised in this film will spark real conversations.”

The film is based around Isaac Asimov’s visionary stories about future technology where robots are an integral part of our daily lives. Set in 2035, Smith plays Detective Del Spooner, a police officer dealing with a heavy dose of survivor’s guilt and a deep suspicion of robots.

There are three laws governing the relationship between the humans and robots of ‘I, Robot’. A robot cannot harm a human being or allow a human being to come to harm; a robot must obey a human being’s orders unless the orders conflict with the first law; a robot must protect its own existence as long as it doesn’t conflict with the first or second law.

“The film is based on Asimov’s later work, specifically the 4th Law,” says Smith, “where the robots redefine the first law, so it changes from human being to human kind. The logical glitch within this forms the basis of this film, where robots could harm human beings if such harm would defend human kind.”

A fan of Asimov’s writing, Smith is delighted that Asimov’s daughter Robin was happy with the film. “Robin loves it because it sticks firmly to her daddy’s work!”

Smith believes the concept of a soul is intangible, one that cannot be defined completely: “How can we say then that a robot doesn’t have one?”

Unlike his character, Detective Spooner, Smith is more welcoming of technology, even if he is confident that humans will mess things up.

“The concept (of technology) is sound, but the arrogance of man inevitably leads to a natural implosion,” he says. With ‘I, Robot’, Smith’s movie career has taken off. The film already raked in $56 million at the US box office.

But this doesn't mean his music career has been sidelined; Smith is set to release a new album early in the new year.

“I’m really confident about it. The sound has matured but there is still that same Will Smith flavour we all know,” he jokes.

The album features a duet with queen of R&B Mary J. Blige and also Ludacris. Smith said he even sent a CD to Justin Timberlake so we may just be hearing a collaboration between the two very soon.

Ever the actor at heart, Smith has just completed a romantic comedy with Eva Mendez, which opens in the US on February 11 next year, adding another role to an extensive resumé.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Summary: Competent, but a bit of a missed opportunity (James McNally on the IMDB)

I saw this film at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival. Drum is the story of Henry Nxumalo, a journalist for South Africa's pioneering Drum magazine. Set in the mid-1950s, the film attempts to recreate the ambiance of Sophiatown, an area of shops and nightclubs in central Johannesburg that has been compared to Harlem during its Renaissance. Henry is at first content to write sports stories for the magazine, until the gradual encroachment of apartheid laws threatens his beloved neighbourhood. Henry's politicization leads to confrontations with the authorities and to a predictable end.

A scene from Drum Posted by Hello

Overall, I don't feel like I have much to complain about. It's just that, well, I think I expected more punch. I'm a veteran of many films and plays dealing with South African history, but most of them (Cry Freedom and the under-appreciated Barbara Hershey vehicle A World Apart, for instance) deal with the political awakening of white liberal South Africans, and have been directed by white, often foreign, directors. Even so, I found them powerful and inspiring. Naturally I expected that a film about a genuine black hero directed by a young black South African director would be even more powerful and affecting. And this one just wasn't. Clearly, the casting of American Taye Diggs in the role of Henry has a little bit to do with it. His casting tells me that the director wanted to make a commercial film, and with that comes some inevitable trade offs. The film feels too short and hurried to make Henry's transformation convincing. His relationships with his wife, boss, and colleagues were surely an integral part of the story, and yet they feel superficial here. At the Q&A after the film, Diggs even admits that he still feels the part should have gone to a South African actor. The director countered that "women dig Taye Diggs" and that his presence would "put bums in seats." Enough said about that.

The music, though, stands out and almost succeeds in elevating the film. Granted, it is pretty hard to mess up the music in a South African film, and here there is a fine mix of township jazz and mournful hymns that hints at what life in Sophiatown must have been like.

In summary, the film was competently written, directed, shot and acted. But it feels a little bit like a missed opportunity. Apart from the two films I mentioned above, you really should see the one-woman play The Syringa Tree (by Pamela Gien) if you ever get the chance. That play, performed by one woman on a nearly bare stage, has left indelible images in my mind that no film can ever match.

Directed by
Zola Maseko (2004)

Jason Filardi >> (screenplay)

Timothy Grimes (earlier screenplay)
Zola Maseko (earlier screenplay)

Taye Diggs >> Henry Nxumalo
Tumisho Masha >> Can Themba
Moshidi Motshegwa >> Florence Nxumalo
Fezile Mpela >> Todd Matshikiza
Keketso Semoko >> Fatsy

Tanya Baleson
Jason Flemyng
Gabriel Mann

Drum and Red Dust - Apartheid cinematic book ends?

TORONTO - Like a pair of cinematic bookends, Drum and Red Dust represent both the tragic beginning and promising ending of South Africa's 50-year experience with apartheid.

The powerfully themed films are two of several screening at this year's Toronto International Film Festival that look back at the apartheid issue while accompanying an apparent flowering of South African-based cinema.

In Drum, Taye Diggs plays Henry Nxumalo, a real-life journalist for a popular black magazine of the early 1950s who gradually develops a social conscience as he sees the race-dividing policy taking its brutal shape. He then launches a series of investigative exposes at great risk to his life.

In Red Dust, meanwhile, Hilary Swank (there must be a bankable Hollywood star for the international film market) is a New York lawyer who in 2000 joins the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a quasi judicial body that, in the post-apartheid years, travelled the countryside taking testimony. Unlike a normal judicial system, the commission dispensed amnesty for any 'political offenders' who made a full confession of their crimes, and attempted to force the prosecution those who lied or withheld information.

Zola Maseka, director of Drum, says his country has been a democracy for a mere 10 years and until recently funding for culture has not been a priority for a government burdened with so many other issues. At the same time, he says, South Africa's private sector is still owned by a white minority, one that is not going to fund films, especially those that rake over the coals of apartheid.

"But right now there's been quite a big injection of money, start-up funds, and this is the result of it," Maseka says. "Understanding that cinema can play a huge role in bringing South Africa on the map."

Red Dust producer Anant Singh has been making movies with South African themes for years, even in defiance of the former white regime. He says when the new democracy took over a decade ago, there wasn't a ministry of arts and culture and so he collaborated with the government to set up a program to support the film industry.

"We looked at the Canadian policy, we looked at the Australian, and did a sort of composite," Sing says. "So we support writers, film producers, a vast area of stuff. And I think the industry is at its best ever, demonstrated by the movies that are here."

Red Dust director Tom Hooper senses no reluctance to underwrite films about the apartheid struggle. While he might not have chosen the proper words, Hooper said that quite simply there are just so many amazing stories.

"I think South Africa is blessed with having this plurality of fantastic material, and I hope they continue to mine it."

Set as it is at apartheid's birth, Drum crackles with tension and dread and carries little hope beyond a wrenching scene in which black marchers conduct a peaceful funeral procession through the streets of Johannesburg in defiance of white officers who watch helplessly. A young Nelson Mandela is portrayed but director Maseka says he hasn't seen the film yet.

It also shows the quashing of the colourful Johannesburg sector known as Sophiatown, a last vestige of black clubs and music, where flashy gangsters mixed with writers and musicians.

Actor Tumisho Masha says it was a period of great artistic awakening.

"It was a time when South African musicians were really keen and very interested in the works of people like Miles Davis and other jazz greats of the time. And there was a lot of great literature and poetry being written."

Maseka says he had to be true to a period that represented an end of innocence, just before apartheid took off its gloves at the end of the '50s.

"In 1961 you had the Sharpeville massacre in which 169 people were killed, South Africa was thrown out of the Commonwealth, the ANC was banned, went into exile, state of emergency, kicked out of the Olympics, Nelson Mandela goes to prison."

It was only in the 1990s under pressure from the international community, he adds, when the country pulled back from the abyss.

And that's the miracle of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is partly credited for helping avert a civil war and which is reflected in the magnificently photographed and acted Red Dust.

Director Hooper says he hopes his film helps educate an international community that has little awarenes of the story of how a blood bath had been avoided, primarily because peaceful stories don't get as much attention as the violence in places like Zimbabwe.

"It seems that conflict resolution is such a pressing issue at the moment in many theatres around the world," he says, referring to the commission's preference for forgiveness over punishment.

"It seemed to turn the entire history of western justice on its head, the process of truth and reconciliation."

Some might snigger at the simplistic view of the Commission Red Dust's Hooper has. What it achieved and what scores it left unsettled remains to be seen. Red Dust is box office inspired cinema afterall.

It will also be interesting to know what Gillian Slovo, former South African Communist Party leader's daugther and author of the book on which this film is based, makes of the film.

The precedent is not promising. Antjie Krog, Afrikaans author of Country of My Scull, detested the John Boorman interpretation of her book in the movie by the same name.

Singh has also produced another festival entry, Ian Gabriel's Forgiveness, starring Arnold Vosloo (Note to Americans: He is the bad guy in The Mummy remake and a well know South African actor) as a former white cop seeking forgiveness from his former victims.

And there is Yesterday, the first-ever feature shot entirely in the Zulu language. Hotel Rwanda with Don Cheadle and Nick Nolte, is also a South African co-production.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Sasani reports over 70% rise in earnings

Media and communications investment holding group Sasani Ltd (SSA) has reported a 76% rise in its headline earnings per share (HEPS) for the year to end-June 2004 to 18.7 cents from 10.6 cents a year earlier. The group declared a total dividend for the year of 5 cents per share, compared to nil a year earlier.
Sasani is South Africa's largest service provider of facilities to the local commercial and film production sector.

It is also the biggest producer of video-based digital education in Africa after acquiring a 50% stake in a joint venture with Kagiso Education Television.

Announcing its final results on Thursday, Sasani said turnover had risen 47% in difficult market conditions, to 287 million rand from 196.1 million rand a year earlier.

The group said much of the improved performance was attributable to more feature film productions and its new digital educational initiatives in Ethiopia, which more than offset the negative effect on the group of reduced international commercial production in South Africa (due to the strong rand) and the increased competition in the Cape Region.

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South African filmmakers vying for world attention

David Isaacs is trying desperately to get to Toronto. The Cape Town actor/filmmaker is strapped for cash and this week was still in the process of obtaining a visa for Canada. He barely has enough for his airfare and still needs to nail down accommodation.
But he is determined to attend the Toronto International Film Festival.
That says much about the the event's allure and international reputation. It also says something about the state of filmmaking in South Africa.
Isaacs is among the new breed of actors/filmmakers who are establishing a beachhead for South African movies on the world stage. His determination to rub shoulders with filmdom's movers-and-shakers in Toronto is indicative of the can-do spirit in the South African industry, according to Katherine Roberts, who teaches African film and is program director for the African and Creole Film Festival in Montreal.

'The African film industry is in crisis and South Africa is its great hope,' Roberts said in an interview.

Five of those films will be on display at the festival, where South Africa is the featured country this year. Isaacs is part of an ensemble cast in one of them: Mark Bamford's Cape Of Good Hope.

There are two main reasons why Roberts believes South Africa will soon become Africa's film powerhouse.

The great majority of films in South Africa are shot in English, which makes it more attractive internationally. In West Africa, much of the filming is funded by France and shot in French. Most are documentaries with a limited market.

Huge film studios are being built in Cape Town and Durban, on the east coast. Film studios mean huge financial investments for future undertakings.

In addition, a government-supported company called Dv8 allows filmmakers to produce their work digitally — which is easier, quicker and cheaper — and is opening doors for younger filmmakers who often have trouble finding financial backers.

Dv8 has signed a deal with the national television broadcaster SABC to promote and screen South African films.

"The idea is that millions of South Africans will be able to see films that reflect their lives on television. Making films available to a mass audience is so important, given what has happened to theatres elsewhere in Africa," Roberts said.

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Thursday, September 09, 2004


Could this be the year Hilary Swank transcends the Oscar curse? Five years ago, the 25-year-old unknown swept into town with the sleeper hit, Boys Don't Cry. Until then, Swank's claim to fame had been a recurring role on Beverly Hills, 90210. But her touching portrayal of Teena Brandon, a Nebraska woman who was raped and murdered for posing as a man, blew away the critics and earned her an Academy Award.

Since then, Swank's had trouble overcoming her status as a one-hit wonder. Does anyone remember her successive films -- The Core, say, or The Affair of the Necklace?

Justice to her career might yet be served with Red Dust. The intense thriller, set during South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation hearings, is described by those who have seen it as "a monumental achievement" and "infinitely more moving and passionate than a typical courtroom drama." Swank plays a human-rights lawyer whose life is changed by an investigation into allegations against a police officer.

Business Report - Film bodies off to India to get a slice of Bollywood

The Durban Film Office, along with its counterparts in Gauteng and Cape Town, is off to Mumbai this weekend in a bid to bring a slice of the $4.2 billion (R27.3 billion) Indian film industry to our shores.

The delegation to the India International Film Convention 2004, which starts tomorrow, will be showcasing South African locations.

The spin-offs from the film industry are significant. In the Western Cape, the industry is estimated to be worth R2 billion a year. Of this, direct spend is about R850 million. The multiplier effect for the industry is 2.5, meaning that for every R1 spent, R2.50 goes into the local economy.

The Durban Film Office feels that the city is an appropriate location for Bollywood as it has the largest Indian population of any city outside India. Besides the cultural and linguistic links, there would be a large pool of extras, the office says.

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Thursday, September 02, 2004

William Kentridge on the positives of the cultural boycot

William Kentridge Posted by Hello

William Kentridge believes inadequacy aids artistic development, writes Lenny Ann Low.

There are more than 10 William Kentridges pacing the Museum of Contemporary Art's galleries but only one of them is real.

The bona fide William Kentridge is sitting calmly in the corner of a blue room as curators and staff whirl past to install more than 70 animated films, drawings, etchings and sculptures for the MCA's major exhibition of Kentridge's renowned work, which opens today.

Only metres away, however, in another, much darker room, a solemn bevy of life-size Kentridges are busily tearing up charcoal drawings, plummeting to the ground from flimsy ladders, squinting into telescopes made from coffee cups and pacing ponderously ahead of a naked woman, who turns out to be the artist's wife, Anne Stanwix.

Part of a series of films made by Kentridge, the first globally acclaimed South African artist of the post-apartheid period, these magical black-and-white doppelgangers are two-dimensional self-portraits projected onto the gallery's walls. They are both a homage to the French film pioneer George Melies and a insight into the humble work methods of a very gentlemanly artist.

Like Kentridge's best-known series of animated short films, Drawings For Projection, which began in 1989 and are included in the exhibition, these flickering movies take the viewer into a world of melancholy, magic, desire and humour.

The famed animations, however, all painstakingly formed from charcoal drawings and inspired mostly by South Africa's battle to overcome the tumult of apartheid, along with the more personal struggles of two fictional characters, Soho Eckstein and Felix Teitlebaum, also bear the images of senseless death, disfigured landscapes or bureaucratic manipulations that Kentridge reveals with such mastery and lucidity.

Kentridge refers to his animation technique as "stone-age filmmaking" not least because it is almost primitive in its production.

Using paper, charcoal, limited pastels and an eraser, Kentridge draws, rubs out, draws and so forth ... hundreds of his subjects' movements in each scene on the one piece of paper while also filming it, frame-by-frame on a "very basic camera". As a result, the short animations bear the ethereal marks and smoky smears of Kentridge's industry.

"Those smudges are the remnants of me trying as hard as I can to erase something there," says Kentridge, who was born in Johannesburg, and is still based there with his wife and three children. "With charcoal on paper you don't get a perfect erasion, so what, in the end, became the central part of the way I worked was a fault that remained.

"It always takes me a while to understand that fault is the virtue. The failure of an ability to erase properly is what actually gives it its substance."

At 49, Kentridge is a keen exponent of failure's importance to an artist. He recalls a crucial turning point nearly 15 years ago when, after years "dabbling" in film, drawing and theatre, a friend told him he had to be an artist because no one was going to give him a "proper job".

"I was talking to the students at COFA [NSW College of Fine Arts] this week about being saved by one's failures," says Kentridge dressed in his customary tailored trousers and blue, long-sleeve shirt, the hue of which is a rare, though potent, element of his charcoal animations.

"I wanted to be an actor but fortunately I was so bad I couldn't practice as one. I tried working in the film industry but fortunately the film industry was so depressing and so terrible in South Africa in the years that I tried, that I went back to my studio. And, again, these pictures ended up as charcoal drawings because my oil painting was so incompetent.

"It's important to explain to students the part that chance and whim and uncertainty play in an artist's life."

Despite being virtually unknown outside of Johannesburg eight years ago, Kentridge believes the cultural boycott of South Africa during the 1980s was ultimately beneficial to the development of his work.

"There wasn't an expectation that the work would be part of the larger art conversation,' says Kentridge. "I was kind of astonished when the cultural boycott ended and people from the arts centres of the world were interested in what I had been doing."

He is also a successful creator of theatre. Since 1992, Kentridge has worked with Handspring Puppet Company, from South Africa, creating multimedia pieces using puppets, live actors and animation. A revival of the company's work The Return of Ulysses based on Claudio Monteverdi's opera and directed by Kentridge, is to be part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival in October.

The Zimbabwe International Film Festival opens with the Wooden Camera

THE seventh edition of the Zimbabwe International Film Festival opened at the weekend.

A music concert and a premiere of a South African film The Wooden Camera set the reels in motion that will see over 100 films being screened in Harare, Bulawayo and Chitungwiza.

Other highlights at this year's film festival include Alex's Elise and Belle-mere, a scene from Alex's Wedding, a documentary by Jean-Marie Teno about a polygamous marriage ceremony in Cameroon.

The United States based Zimbabwean actor Mike Chinyamurindi will feature in the award-winning South African short film, Ubuntu's Wounds by Sechaba Morojele. Morojele will be attending ZIFF to present his film.

Another film that is set to attract interest from filmgoers is called Sleepless Nights.

The film was written and directed by Hani Khalifa of Egypt.

Zimbabwean filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga's musical short film Kare Kare Zvako, based on a Shona folk tale, will premiere at ZIFF complete with a live performance by Prudence Katomeni, who sings many of the songs in the film.

McKenzie goes for gold

The story of Precious McKenzie, the chirpy South African-born weightlifter who took New Zealand to gold medal glory at the 1978 Commonwealth Games, may become a $15 million movie.

McKenzie, 68, flies to South Africa on Monday for two weeks to meet financial backers, who have invested development funding in the project, and potential investors.

The project includes South African film company Unital Films International, which has helped bankroll several movies.

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South Africans attend the Zimbabwe International Film Festival

South Africans attending the Ziff are Jeremy Nathan, Sechaba Morojele, Rudzani Dzuguda, Zulfah Otto-Sallies, Dan Jawitz and Tambudzai Madzimure.

Nathan is one of South Africa's most lauded and respected film producers. He has produced such hits as Jump the Gun.

Nathan is currently the executive producer of Dv8 (Responsible for Forgiveness and Max and Mona), and will be coming to present a seminar on "Dv8 - a model for film making in Africa."

Morojele is a graduate of the Lee Strasberg Institute for Drama and the American Film Institute. He has recently garnered a multitude of awards for his short film "Ubuntu's Wounds".

The film focuses on a South African man's struggle to face his past when old wounds are opened during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings.

In addition to being a director, Morojele is also well-known for his work in front of the camera, having played leading roles in films like Dangerous Ground (with Elizabeth Hurley and Ice Cube) and Panic Mechanic.

Ubuntu's Wounds is being featured in the Short Film Competition Section at ZIFF 2004.

Dzuguda is the director of the Project 10 documentary Mix. He is very active in the South African arts community and is one of the country's up-and-coming film making talents.

Otto-Sallies is a highly-respected film director, producer and scriptwriter. She has been instrumental in the development of independent filmmakers in the Cape region. She is also director of Raya, one of six short films released as Mama Africa and of the Project 10 documentary Through the Eyes of My Daughter.

Otto-Sallies is currently director of the Cape Town World Cinema Festival.

Jawitz is a leading film and television content distributor in Southern Africa who boasts ofseveral years' experience in film marketing. Jawitz has recently been contracted by the Film Resource Unit to market the Project 10 documentary series. Jawitz is planning to attend ZIFF as a representative of the Project 10 series, and to present a panel discussion on the "South African Film Industry: 10 Years On".

Madzimure is the acting director of the Southern Africa Communications for Development (Sacod) Independent Producers organisation.

She has worked in the film industry in southern Africa for over five years, and is actively involved in working with producers in the region to create training and networking opportunities.

Several Sacod members will be presenting their films at ZIFF and Sacod will be heavily involved in the Film Forum workshops.

Another feature filmed in Namibia

IT'S action time again in the sand dunes at the central coast where yet another movie is being made by an Academy Award nominee filmmaker.

Work on the feature film 'The Trail', which is co-written and directed by Eric Valli, started in June - about three months after the completion of the major Hollywood movie 'Flight of the Phoenix', starring Dennis Quaid.

Valli is the screenwriter and director of 'Himalaya', an Oscar-nominated picture for Best Foreign Film in 2000.

Calling Namibia one of the world's most exquisite filming locations, the movie's publicist MJ Magbanua said filming had been done throughout the country including Epupa Falls, the Skeleton Coast, Kamanjab, Lüderitz and lastly Walvis Bay.

The crew arrived at Swakopmund last week for the last part of the movie which will be shot until September 25.

With British actor Julian Sands as Gary in the lead role, 'The Trail' focuses on the relationship between a father and his daughter against the backdrop of the most remote and exotic locations in Namibia.

Sands has played a variety of roles in Hollywood movies including 'Room with a View', 'Naked Lunch', 'Warlock 1&2', 'Boxing Helena' and 'Leaving Las Vegas'.

His daughter called Grace is played by newcomer Camille Summers from France.

Another name movie lovers will recognise is that of Eriq Ebouaney who has starred in 'Lumumba', 'Sometimes in April', 'Kingdom of Heaven', 'San Antonio' and 'Cape of Good Hope'.

He plays the role of Kadjiro, a Himba guide.

The supporting cast is led by Clint Dyer as Tsuari.

The publicist told The Namibian that as many as 200 extras a day had been used at the Epupa Falls and Kamanjab locations.

Five street children from Lüderitz have also been cast with some of them in speaking roles.

She could not give an exact number, but said many Namibians had also been employed as casual labourers and crew members on the movie.

The crew totals about 150 people, with the majority from France and South Africa.

The storyline of 'The Trail' revolves around an absentee father, Gary (Julian Sands), who rediscovers his relationship with his daughter Grace (Camille Summers).

However, fate intervenes and separates them far too soon.

A storm brings down Gary's aircraft in the desert where he is captured by a gang of desperados - remnants of the Angolan war.

His survival depends on his skill as a geologist and desire to see his daughter again.

Imprisoned in the gang's hide-out in a ghost town, he is forced to help his captors mine diamonds.

Restless and desperate to find her father, Grace connects with Kadjiro (Eriq Ebouaney) - the Himba guide who was her childhood "spiritual" father and companion.
Rather than relying on modern technology, Grace allows herself to trust him to guide her to her father.

Magbanua said she could not reveal the budget of the movie, but added that it was a good size for a foreign film.

The entire movie is being filmed in Namibia.

The Lion not that sleepy anymore

PRETORIA -- Disney Enterprises Inc. filed an urgent court application yesterday to prevent its trademarks from being sold off in South Africa if a poor family that says it lost millions in royalties from the hit song The Lion Sleeps Tonight wins its lawsuit against the American entertainment giant.

Lawyers acting for the family of the late musician Solomon Linda, who penned the original song Mbube in 1939, obtained a court order in July attaching more than 240 trademarks registered in South Africa to their $1.6-million (U.S.) suit in order to establish local jurisdiction.

The trademarks, which include well-known images such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, could be sold locally to pay Linda's heirs if they win their lawsuit.

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