INTRODUCTION FILMS FILM MAKERS


Siamo Italiani
1964 Switzerland 79 min 35 mm
Dir: Alexander J.Seiler

In 1964 in Switzerland, one out of every three workers was foreign and two out of every three foreigners were Italian. Beautifully shot in black and white, this sensitive documentary about the 500 000-strong Italian community living in Switzerland tells the story of the Swiss discrimination against Italian immigrants looking for work in their country. Considered 'a problem' by the Swiss, the Italians were stereotyped as noisy, dirty, dangerous non-citizens and were treated accordingly by immigration officers and the Swiss public.

As an ethnographic account told from the perspective of working-class Italians, this film was called 'a thunderbolt' when it first hit Swiss screens in 1964 because it portrays an on-the-street reality previously untapped in Swiss cinema. An interesting historical perspective on the immigrant 'problem' that continues to plague Europe.

Palaver. Palaver
1989 Switzerland 93 min 35 mm
Dir: Alexander J.Seiler

1989 marked an unprecedented event in modern history, it was the first time a country put to the vote whether or not it wanted an army. While celebrations for the 50-year commemoration of the outbreak of World War II are well under way, a more liberal Swiss element collects thousands of signatures to support the motion to disband the Swiss army. Stirring speeches thanking halls of old veterans for their efforts to safeguard Switzerland from Hitler are juxtaposed with youth rallies and arguments from the left about the glorification of war and the social and financial burdens of an army.

The film, documenting the intense debate that raged amongst the Swiss public in the months leading up to the referendum, asks the question: Is an army the precondition of freedom?

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Une Saison Au Paradis
1996 Switzerland 112 min 35 mm
Dir: Richard Dindo

From political exile in France, Breyten Breytenbach came to South Africa in 1972 on a special visit to introduce his wife, Yolande, to his family and to the country of his heart. On this trip he was informed by the South African state that he would no longer be accepted into the country after his return to France.

In 1975, however, Breytenbach made an illegal entrance to South Africa to recruit members to an anti-apartheid movement being set up outside the country. The security police became aware of his presence in the country and he was caught, interrogated and imprisoned in isolation in Pretoria.

This poignantly told [auto] biography reveals the pain and the beauty of the life of a South African visionary, as he returns to his beloved country to travel his landscape of memory.

Ernesto 'Che' Guevara
1993 Switzerland 94 min 35 mm
Dir: Richard Dindo

While Che is idolised, the reality of his activism is often lost behind the icon. Dindo's film gives substance to the legend. In 1961 Guevara became a minister in Castro's government. In this capacity, in Algiers in 1965, he delivered a powerful speech indicting socialist powers for exploiting the Third World and, in effect, colluding with US imperialism. Soon he was to resign and leave Cuba forever. In 1966, with 16 comrades, he entered Bolivia to conduct a guerilla war but in less than a year later he would be dead, his wide-eyed corpse [and his diary] on display for the world to see.

Based on this very diary and the memories of those who met him, this moving portrait lends substance to the man on the T-shirt.

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Well Done
1994 Switzerland 75 min 35 mm
Dir: Thomas Imbach

At last! An intelligent and more-than-creative documentary on life behind large banking corporations. Imbach gets to the heartbeat of what it means to work in a high-tech, high-powered industry with this devastatingly articulate and innovative work.

Well Done cuts directly to the subtext of working life: as the tirade of statistics, numbers, deadlines are punctuated by a sideways glance, the tapping of a red fingernail, a burst of laughter, we are asked to examine the moments of human quirk that crack the facade of 'professionalism'.

With furious editing finesse and an almost-too-close handheld camera, Imbach leads us on an absurd and passionate vendetta against the right of big business to control human lives.

Ghetto
1997 Switzerland 122 min 35 mm
Dir: Thomas Imbach

Documentary meets Art House meets home video in this hard-hitting, hyper-real ride through the lives of eight Swiss teenagers as they face the challenge of entering life-after-school. With a "mother-fucker" and a roll of the eyes they take us on a breakbeat journey through their classroom, bedrooms, nightclubs, their secrets, their telephone conversations, their politics. Imbach's camera goes in close to find the fear, the beauty, of what it means to be a teenager.

The film has six chapters - Ghetto, Auto, Sex, Drugs, Techno, Marroni - each of which spins on real-life dialogue to create two hours of incredible directness that will glue you to the screen. Ghetto is a brilliantly paced, fascinating film that avoids flashy stereotypes in favour of emphatic relationships with its almost-adult subjects. Highly entertaining.

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Charmaine's Story
1996 South Africa 26 min BETA
Dir: Sara Blecher

June 1983. Four seemingly random murders occur across South Africa. Police eventually find evidence which links all four to a renegade couple, Charmaine Phillips and Peter Grundlingh, who are on a road run across the country with their baby. NYU film graduate Blecher has constructed a part murder mystery, part 'dear diary' account of South Africa's very own Bonny and Clyde murderers.

Charmaine's Story documents the four murders, using news broadcasts, detective photographs and interviews with Charmaine's family, friends of the couple and their investigating officer. This story of violence, obsession, and dysfunctional relationships that captured the fascination of the South African public is narrated by Charmaine herself. The twist in the tale reminds us that fact will always remain more extraordinary than fiction.

Plays with The Life and Times of Sara Baartman which Gavshon also produced.

The Life & Times of Sara Baartman
1998 SA 52 min BETA
Dir: Zola Maseko
Produced by: Harriet Gavshon

The tale of Sara Baartman should be known to every South African. For it is a story that distills the audacity of European racism and is an accessible and moving account of her life. Sara was a Khoi-Khoi woman, born in the Cape in 1790, who at the age of 20 was taken to London by two Europeans visiting Cape Town - one the brother of her Dutch employer.

It was there she was named 'the Hottentot Venus' and sold by her traveling companions as a freak act to London audiences fascinated with the exotic. The subsequent battle over her remains is recounted by French, British and South African historians. This film grapples with issues of race, ownership and the practice of history.

Award-wining Maseko is a graduate of the National Film and Television School [UK] where he specialised in documentary direction.

The Life and Times of Sara Baartman plays with Charmaine's Story.

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Real Lives: From Russia with Love & The House on Mpanza Road
1998 SA 52 min x 2 BETA
Dirs: Sara Blecher and Nadine Zylstra

Real Lives tells of the extraordinary events in people's lives. Compelling and entertaining, the series offers a rare depth of insight into the diversity of South African stories.

First is the riveting account of beautiful Erica of Omsk in Siberia, who sent her photograph to EuroClub, a matchmaking agency. She's looking for a better life. Komatipoorter Ricardo Espag chose Erica from the catalogue and has tailor-made his home to please her.

Virginity testing is a long-standing cultural practice in KwaZulu-Natal. Here are three remarkable women, MaZungu, the traditional healer who practices virginity testing; Silindiwe, a 17-year old who has been tested every month since her tenth birthday: and Xolisile who 'failed' the test. Their perspectives give meaning to a tradition both honoured and reviled. Real Lives shows with Extracts from The Black.

Extracts from The Black - a work in progress
1999 SA 28 min BETA
Dir: Eddie Edwards

We are pleased to present a 'work in progress' about Cape Town's Black River and the musicians who live along its banks. This is a hugely enjoyable exploration of musical styles and musicians' fantasies.

Musings on the much-maligned river provide ingenious links between the four segments. Close-up camera work provides a feast of visual detail. Featured gigs include Penny Pinchers All Stars, Seventh Breed, The Honeymoon Suites, and Toyer Abrahams.

Extracts from The Black walked away with four Avanti Awards this year: a Silver in the Best Documentary category, and awards for camera, editing, and final mix. A 52-minute version is in post-production. Director Eddie Edwards will be present at the screening on Tuesday 22 at 5.45pm to answer questions from the audience. Extracts from The Black plays with Real Lives.

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The Long Journey of Clement Zulu
1994 SA 59 min BETA
Dir: Liz Fish

In this, one of the best documentaries made in South Africa, we follow the journeys of three men from the moment of their release from Robben Island to a painful and often contradictory freedom. They are Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim, James Mange and Clement Zulu.

In this deeply moving, still heart-breaking film each man reveals how his sense of self changes upon release, as he encounters friends, family, loves and the new South Africa. "I wanted to pay tribute and give exposure to these ordinary heroes who paid the price of imprisonment. They could so easily be overlooked as they were reabsorbed into the mass of unemployed South Africans. I also wanted to debunk the media images of political prisoners - terrorists, hard-bitten politicos, tough, skilled and wily political fighters".

Not to be missed. Plays with Where Truth Lies.

Where Truth Lies
1998 SA 28 min BETA
Dir: Mark Kaplan

Kaplan has been making films since the late 70s. He was detained and deported in 1982 for his role in the Community Video Education Trust. This film shows the difficulty the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had to construct the 'truth' of South Africa's past from the testimonies of 7 000 perpetrators and 21 000 victims. Of course, not all the answers given were truthful.

Siphiwo Mtimkulu was arrested, tortured, poisoned, released, abducted, killed and his body burned. His family suffered a 15 year long sadistic misinformation campaign by the security forces. Two days before the deadline 'Notoriuos' Niewoudt applied for amnesty for Mtimkulu's death. We see Niewoudt visit Mtimkulu's parents to ask forgiveness. Mtimkulu's mother says, "For God it is not late. For me you are late." Mtimkulu's son's response was to crack open Niewoudt's skull, all memorably captured on camera. Where Truth Lies plays with The Long Journey of Clement Zulu.

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Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela - an intimate portrait
1999 SA 104 min BETA
Dir: Cliff Bestall

The rhetoric of sainthood that surrounds Nelson Mandela is built on legendary details. This very sainthood erases other details and presents no mean challenge for the documentarist. Bestall's 'intimate portrait' has approached the task by NOT interviewing the most authoritative source - the man himself. He appears only in archival footage, some of it very rare. So, without the stamp of Mandela's words, what's on offer?

Comrades, allies and even enemies introduce us to the shifts in the person who is Mandela, noting his strengths, blind spots and personal style, his growth, anger, regrets and strategic insight. This film points to the complexities behind all the representations we have received and there are interesting lessons in this approach. Stark contradictions in testimonies suggest that 'truth' is a construct, though not necessarily false.

Main Reef Road
1999 SA 90 min BETA
Dir: Nicolaas Hofmeyr

Avoiding the 'shopping malls and fake piazzas' of Gauteng, the film follows the road that runs through the province's histroy and present. The journey to find out "why we are here" is a task Hofmeyr takes on with commitment and humour. He meets a housing activist named Rasta, who represents people fighting eviction from an area threatened by sinkholes and the white councillor who sympathises because he once lived without electricity. There are hidden subcultures of American car buffs, who smaak their Wildcats and the beauty queen who races cars for her father, her country, and God. The mines that mark the route continue to shape the lives of the people we meet. The search for the metal that gives Gauteng its name commits men to the deep to dig for the thousands of tons of rock needed to produce $400 000 worth of gold every week.

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The Furiosus
1999 SA 52 min BETA
Dir: Liza Key

The Furiosus explores the tortured story of Dimitri Tsafendas, assassin of Hendrik Verwoerd. Declared by a judge to be a madman - 'a Furiosus' in Roman law - Tsafendas spent 28 years on death row. Produced as if giving evidence before the TRC, the director becomes the attorney in the trial that never was, arguing that Tsafendas had raged against Verwoerd's classifications of race.

Interviewed after his release from prison to Sterkfontein Hospital, Tsafendas is an ill man, suffering the continuing effects of years of brutal treatment. Nonetheless, he comes across as engaging, even lucid. The genius of the film is in the director's capacity to allow contradictory impressions of Tsafendas to emerge. Fragments of memories collected from many who knew Tsafendas in prison years and before, generate a portrait of one of the most complex figures of South African history; someone loathed by many, admired by most, and misunderstood by all.

Aliens or Broers
1998 SA/France 52 min BETA
Dir: Thulani Mokoena

Trade Unionist This film deals sensitively with the challenges faced by the growing Francophone African community in Johannesburg. The reasons they are here are varied: pursuing their studies, seeking assylum from political and religious persecution. In return, they bring new cultures and valuable skills. South Africans have not always responded hospitably, seeing foreigners as competitors for jobs. The term 'makwerekwere' signals this disdain.

Journey with Marcellin Zounmenou of Benin, who works at the Soweto branch of Alliance Français, through his experiences of South Africa and travel home with him to Benin. Through such mutual exchange, the film undercuts the widespread xenophobia in South Africa.

Former Trade Unionist Mokoena studied filmmaking in France. He is the author of numerous scripts and co-director of the award-winning documentary 'My vote is my secret'. Aliens or Broers plays with John Citizen and the State & Go Via the Right Authorities.

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John Citizen and The State
1967 SA 19 min BETA
Union of SA Film Services

John Citizen, white and Afrikaans, is introduced to a panoply of State aparatuses at his disposal - the departments of Water, Pensions, Works, Labour, even SAA. The ideas, like the music, are brutally spliced, the lack of subtlety is revealing.

In describing the work of Native Affairs the voice-over is at its most euphemistic. Mrs Citizen checks 'whether her servant has his reference book'. This is the only role in which Black people feature in this world. John Citizen and the State plays with Aliens or Broers and Go Via the Right Authorities.

Go Via the Right Authorities
1967 SA 12 min BETA
Union of SA Film Services

Aimed at Black people, this film is an indication of the way its authors saw the intended audience. lies in the patronising metaphors used. The film is pregnant with fear of the arrival of Blacks in urban areas. The fantasy which informs the film soon reveals itself overtly: 'Sometimes it may not even be necessary for you to leave your own area because work may be available to you on your own doorstep.'

As a document in which the Apartheid govt presents its influx control policy, this film from the State archives is a stark reminder of the official ideology of the recent past. These films are too concrete to make for easy forgetting, and perhaps this is their only virtue.

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River of Memory
1999 SA 26 min BETA
Dir: Craig Matthew & Joëlle Chesselet

Shot in Nambia, Sweden and England, River of Memory documents Himba leaders' moving and eloquent protests against the building of a hydropower dam on their land along the Cunene River, bordering Namibia and Angola. Arresting images of the river explore landscapes that will be lost should the building of the dam go ahead. Questions about the relationships between globalisation and development, land rights and cultural survival pervade this disturbing and beautiful documentary.

The soundtrack deserves special mention: much of it produced by travelling South Africans together with Himba musicians on the banks of the river. River of Memory plays in a triple bill with the 'work in progress' The Great Dance, and Remnants of a Stone Age People.

The Great Dance - a work in progress
1999 SA 15 min BETA
Dir: Craig & Damon Foster

Craig Foster [Earthrise Films] and Damon Foster [Liquid Pictures] specialise in an organic style of filmmaking designed to stimulate the viewers' deep sense of animals, landscape and fellow human beings.

The Great Dance, on the master trackers of the Kalahari, [co-produced with Discovery, National Geographic and TBS], has led to the use of miniature cameras mounted in unusual places, sometimes on animals. The idea was inspired by the Gwi trackers extreme ability to project their minds into the animals they hunt.

Craig and Damon work closely with executive producers Ellen Widemuth and James Herson in an ongoing process of shooting and editing, slowly nurturing the film into shape over a period of 2 years. We are very pleased to have them both present an extract of their visually stunning work on Saturday 26 June at 8pm.

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Remnants of a Stone Age People
1960 SA 31 min BETA
Union of SA Information Office Production

'From the throbbing of virile cities' to 'relics of a bygone and leisurely age' - with such phrases, Remnants of a Stone Age People invited audiences of the 1960s to journey from Johannesburg to the Kalahari to view the producers' ultimate Other: the Bushmen. More curious and bizarre than the hunter-gatherers' images are the ideological gems in the script. Did you know that the Bushmen fled to the desert because they refused to cooperate?

A fascinating and eerie study of the logic of racial superiority, and the craft of 'Othering' subjects via moving images. This film is screened courtesy of the Government Communication Information Services and is part of a triple bill with River of Memory and The Great Dance.

One Day on The Path
1998 SA 30 min BETA
Dir: Francesca Bartellini

This documentary, set in remote Transkei, uses the passage of time [dawn, noon and dusk] and a footpath that traverses a certain village as a metaphor for Life. Everyone must walk along it. There are interviews with the Sangomas who reflect on the symbolic presence of animals in divination, magic and the ancestors. The poetry of Xhosa poet and scholar Abner Nyamende features in a soundtrack that tries to suggest a harmony between classical European melodies and traditional Xhosa music.

Francesca Bartellini has a degree in Political Philosophy from the State University of Milan and is currently reading for her Ph.D. at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris. She also writes for theatre and has taken roles in many films. She came to South Africa to work on the documentary on the TRC "Ubuntu and the Naked Rage". One Day on the Path, shot by Guy Tillim, is her debut as documentary director. One Day on the Path plays with The Fox has Four Eyes.

The Fox Has Four Eyes
1958 SA 24 min BETA
Dir: Jamie Uys

Born in Boksburg in 1921, Jacobus Johannes 'Jamie' Uys became an internationally acclaimed director with 24 films to his credit. His features and documentaries included Funny People, Animals are Beautiful People and, of course, The Gods Must Be Crazy. He died in Johannesburg in 1996.

This mini-drama was produced by the Apartheid State. Narrated in a pseudo-African accent, it is an effort to discredit traditional African beliefs. A man, Masava, wishing to gain strength consults a witch doctor. He is advised to kill a young girl, a twin, and eat her heart. The tale is taken up by the girl's father, we learn of his unsuccessful attempt to take revenge on Masava and his subsequent incarceration in parts of prison. His rehabilitation includes the realisation that witchdoctors have no real power.

It is awesome to reflect upon the arrogance of the makers, to believe that rural Africans would be convinced by such a plot. It is awfully revealing to see from whence Jamie The Gods Must be Crazy Uys hails. The Fox has Four Eyes plays with One Day on the Path.

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