The DFA was established in 2007 to promote and protect the interests of doc filmmakers in South Africa. To contact the DFA, please use the contact form: here . The DFA website is at: Membership applications can be made through the website here.

16 November 2007

The beautiful game: This team of boys were battling it out after the summer rains in Mphephwes village, Venda. Their trophy: a hand made soccer ball crafted out of plastic carry bags. The photo was taken as part of the Dreamfields project initiated by journalist John Perlman that provides soccer balls, kit, and eventually, playing fields, to communities in need. (Photo: C.Muller)

Industry News black

CTCTV call for content


Cape Town Community Television (CTCTV) Collective
c/o Workers World Media Productions, 7 Community House, 41 Salt River Road, Salt River, 7925.
Tel: + 27 21 447 2727, Fax: + 27 21 448 5076
Web link: Workers World Media Productions


1. Introduction

CTCTV is launching Cape Town’s first non-profit, community-based TV station aimed at the greater Cape Town metropolitan area. Founded by over 200 non-profit community organizations in 2006, the Collective is committed to providing community access to the powerful medium of television as a tool to promote human rights, social justice and community cultural development. For more information on CTCTV, please go to
We plan to be on air by March 2008 and need support in creating or providing content for the channel.

CTCTV’s programming policies are informed by the principles of community access and participation as outlined in the Electronic Communications Acts, whereby community TV serves as an access point for diverse members of the community as a means to share political, cultural, artistic, spiritual, and individual expression. CTCTV will therefore serve mainly as an access point for citizens and organisations of civil society. In doing so it will also ensure opportunities for emerging and established film makers to develop and air productions that are in line with the principles of CTCTV.

CTCTV is not yet established in the market place and does not have consistent revenue streams. The CTCTV board has therefore developed range of production models designed to create an enabling environment for revenue generation and independent production that different interest groups can fit into depending on their circumstances.

Given that Community TV is still in its pilot phase CTCTV will, within its policy framework, remain flexible in terms of how these models will be implemented. So if you feel that you don’t fit in to any of the categories below, or you want to make suggestions on how we can approach things differently, please send us constructive suggestions in this regard.
2. Sources of Programming
2.1 In-house programming

In-house programming, which will be kept to a minimum, refers to all programmes that will be financed and produced by CTCTV internally. This includes:

• A community news service: CTCTV will take responsibility for producing a 30-minute, daily news and current affairs programme. News items will be derived from local newspapers, community radio stations as well as material sent in by viewers via the internet and material recorded on peoples’ cell phones and cameras. CTCTV is speaking to partners who are in a position to contribute either in the form of training and/or community reporting.
• Events round-up: CTCTV will produce a weekly programme covering events that have taken place in CT in the previous week and provide a space to announce upcoming events taking place in the city.
CTCTV will also take responsibility for continuity links in between programmes.
2.2 Licensing Agreements

Licensed programming includes programmes that have been produced independently by NGOs, educational institutions (student productions), independent producers, distributors, broadcasters and other community TV stations internationally. Contributors will be asked to submit programming free of charge although CTCTV will bear costs for tape duplication and postage, where necessary. CTCTV will sign a license agreement with contributors which grants CTCTV non-exclusive rights to broadcast material over a 12-month period. Licensed content will make up the majority of programming for the first 6 months of broadcasting.

If the SABC owns the rights to material that you would like to submit, please send us a short description of the programme, including title, the date it was produced and the name of the production company and we will negotiate with the SABC.

Ideally we would like material to be submitted on DVD or Mini-DV format but if this is not possible then a preview copy on any format can be submitted. Once the material has been previewed and selected, a license agreement will be signed by CTCTV and the contributor.

Material can be submitted to Salama Ogier at Workers World Media Productions (WWMP), Community House, 41 Salt River Road, Salt River. We would like to receive the bulk of material by 14 December 2007. Those programmes that are completed after November can be submitted when available.
2.3 Programming partnerships / independent production

CTCTV is calling for programming proposals from NGOs, CBOs, independent film makers, education and government institutions that are in a position to produce content independently. Programming partners will be selected on the basis of CTCTV’s programming policy which is available on

Once selected, CTCTV will support partners by:
• Providing access to a studio or outside broadcast facilities, if required.
• Providing a “letter of intent to broadcast” which can then be used by partners to raise funding or sponsorship to cover production costs, according to guidelines set out by CTCTV. The budget will include a 5% broadcasting fee payable to CTCTV to cover broadcasting costs;
• Selling advertising and, if possible, assisting partners to leverage funding or sponsorship;
In return CTCTV will have non-exclusive usage of the material, in perpetuity.

Programming proposals can be sent to We would like to receive the bulk of proposals by 14 December 2007, but there is no deadline, as such. Proposals should be no longer than three pages and include the following information:

1) Name and contact details of partner institutions and legal status (CC, Section 21, etc);
2) Details of key individuals involved – track record, skills and PDI status;
3) Synopsis of the programme;
4) Duration and number of episodes;
5) Budget summary and finance plan;
6) Target audience;
7) Time of day/week you would like the programme to be flighted (provide 3 options)
8) Indicate when the programme is likely to be ready for broadcast?
9) Details of training or community access component of your production;
10) Indicate how CTCTV can assist you (e.g. access to a studio, etc.)
Please include a show reel or promo of your work, if available.

2.4 Public access programming

Public access programming is suited more to emerging film makers, volunteers and community groups that do not have the capacity to raise their own finance to produce content independently. In the medium term, CTCTV intends to raise funds to set up a number of video access centres that will provide access to training, production facilities and a studio as well as covering basic production costs such as tape stock, transport and consumables.

In the short term, CTCTV will provide access, for a limited number of volunteers, to a studio based at UWC and is lobbying the film industry to make more studios available. CTCTV is working in partnership with organisations such as the Children’s Resource Centre, IDASA and WWMP who are working with specific target groups and is looking for additional partners who are in a position to provide public access for groups such as youth, community arts and working class communities.

Individuals or organisations are invited to submit proposals for public access programming, that is, programmes produced by volunteers in a studio environment. Use the above format, where relevant (you don’t have to have a legal entity).

3. Programme Format

CTCTV is looking for programming in any of the following programming formats:

Community News
Service (in-house)
5% • News
• Sports
• Events
15% • Local sport events/matches
• Coverage of the World Cup Soccer preparations and event from a community perspective
• Sports development
5% • Local, national and international documentaries
• Student productions
10% • Music
• Poetry
• Community dance, choir and theatre groups
• Arts magazine programmes
• Animation
Feature films
5% • SA, African and international feature films
• Low budget feature films
Governance and democracy building
5% • Government information/public education material
• Human rights and democracy education
• Programming designed to encourage dialogue between government and civil society
10% • Educational programming (including PSA’s) on health, environment, etc.
• Programming in support of school curricula, ABET
5% • 26 – 52 min drama series
• Soapies with a difference
• Community theatre productions
• Student productions
Children’s Programming
5% • Story-telling
• Content produced by children
Youth Programming
5% • Student productions
• Youth magazine show
10% • Religious studies
• Interfaith
• Spirituality
• Self improvement
20% • Informal knowledge-building (IKB)
• Advocacy/public discourse/debates/dialogue
• Talk shows/magazine programmes

4. Ensuring diversity, representivity and skills transfer

CTVTV will ensure, through the selection of programming, that:
• Programming reflects the widest diversity of people and interests in Cape Town, with a special focus on poor working class communities.
• One particular interest group (be they education institutions, government, NPOs or independent producers) do not dominate the airwaves by, for example, having more than one programme in development or on air at any given time.
• Programming is produced by a wide diversity of people across all ages, sexual orientation, disabilities, geographical area, class, race and gender, with no one group dominating simply because they have the resources to do so.
• Programming is designed to ensure maximum community participation. In other words, if you are making a film in Delft, how do the people of Delft benefit?

Independent producers are encouraged to submit proposals in partnership with non- profit organisations in order to 1) ensure skills transfer, 2) to ensure that film makers are accountable to the community they are “representing” and, 3) to make it easier for film makers to raise funding or sponsorship. This will not be a rigid policy as there will be certain types of programming where there is no obvious NPO partner.

For more information please contact the CTCTV Programme Manager, Anthea Abrahams, on

The CTCTV board has identified the following programming priorities for the first year of broadcasting and, in some instances, have identified production partners.

Target Group: Existing partners:
Labour Partner: Workers World Media Productions (WWMP)
Weekly, 26-minute magazine programme dealing with workers rights and issues.
Sports Partner: Western Cape Sports Federation.
Government/civil society dialogue:
Partner: IDASA.
A programme aimed at increasing dialogue between communities, civil society organisations and local government decision makers through a once-weekly television programme which focuses strongly on public problem solving.
Youth A youth “production collective” is developing a youth magazine programme and are looking for assistance with production facilities.
NGOs Gun Free South Africa is looking for an independent producer to work with them.
Environment Partners Bio-watch and Earthlife Africa are looking for a film maker with a track record in working for the environment to work with them to develop a weekly magazine programme.

Possible partners:
Women/gender Ilrig, New Women’s Movement, Getnet, Sweat, Samgi, TAC, etc
Health Community Health Media Trust, Media Training Centre, Love Life, etc.
Children Children’s Resource Centre, Molo Songololo, etc.
Arts Public Eye, Greatmore Studios, AMAC, etc.
Consumer rights
The aged

Copyright and fair use


"The Stanford Center for Internet and Society's 'Fair Use Project' (the FUP) was founded in 2006 to provide legal support to a range of projects designed to clarify, and extend, the boundaries of 'fair use' in order to enhance creative freedom." The FUP also runs a Documentary Film Program that specifically deals with fair use issues on non-fiction projects offering advice to US filmmakers. (The Documentary Film Program has offered legal support on films such as Manda Bala which is featured on this DFA blog. )

The FUP put together this amusing short film - made of clips culled from Disney animations no less - to illustrate and explain what copyright is and how the “fair use” principle works under USA law. In a nutshell, in America, “fair use” allows for an infringement of copyright if the material is intended for purposes of criticism, news, reporting, teaching and parody. Keep an eye out for the FBI warning at the front of the film.

When the DFA meets with Sean Flynn on Wednesday 21st November we hope to gain more information on “fair use” and whether this American legal model applies to South African law.

15 November 2007

Bhekizizwe Peterson: self-referential filmmaking


Keynote address by Wits University's Prof. Bhekizizwe Peterson at the People to People International Documentary Conference 13 September 2007

The Value of Bantu Steve Biko's Thinking for Self-referential Documentary Filmmaking in the South.*

I would like to start by commending the organisers of the conference for paying tribute to the memory of Bantu Steve Biko in this week when we commemorate 30 years of his brutal murder by the apartheid government. I am particularly pleased by the provocative topic that they set for my talk: The value of Bantu Steve Biko's thinking for self-referential documentary filmmaking in the South. The focus implied in the topic rightly challenges us to approach Biko as a living beacon and to engage with the continued relevance of his life and ideas in ways that include but surpass his status as a martyr in the struggle for liberation in South Africa. It is in this spirit, then, that I will tease out a few provocations from Biko's writings that, I hope, will be engaged with more extensively during the conference.

Biko's speeches and essays were delivered and written between 1969 and 1977 and they were largely concerned with mobilising resistance against the apartheid regime, the politics of race and identity and the creation of social programmes and projects for the development of the black community. Biko's dedication to advocacy and social transformation were informed by his belief that "the system concedes nothing without demand". (I Write, 91) Biko did not write much on the arts apart from a few comments on largely music and dance. He did, however, make substantive observations on the role and value of culture, understood in its broader sense as a "society's composite answer to the varied problems of life" (I Write, 96). He regarded culture as 'a particular way of life' that is organised around the social, spiritual, economic, intellectual and creative development in a group or society. Biko's reflections on the social role of culture are still relevant today, especially with regard to contemporary concerns and understandings of the politics of power, social and individual agency, identity and globalisation.

The first challenge that Biko presents to people - such as ourselves - who consider themselves to be intellectuals, opinion makers and artists is the need to always adopt a critical consciousness and an innovative praxis. Since he shared the view that the dominant ideas in a society are often those of the dominant social groups, he felt that it is incumbent on artists (and all citizens for that matter) to analyze and reflect on their experiences and their world with an interrogative disposition. The critical sense that he advocated, led Biko to consistently recast the ways in which society was apprehended. For Biko, "To get the right answers, we must ask the right questions" (I Write, 27) So, for instance, during his testimony on behalf of comrades who were facing treason charges at the SASO (South African Student's Organisation) / BPC (Black People's Convention) Trial, Biko and the accused, in the tradition of their predecessors, turned the trial on its head and ended up cross examining the prosecutor, insisting that it should be the apartheid state that should be in the dock for the acts of terrorism it had committed against Blacks. (Testimony, 139) In the same vein, in response to the colonial tendency to present the contradictions of colonialism as stemming from a "native problem" or a "black problem", Biko was adamant that "there is nothing the matter with blacks. The problem is White Racism...." (I Write, 76)

Biko felt that we need to question what passes for knowledge; to consider who defines the nature and significances of our experiences, hopes and desires; who controls the means of signification and communication such as the media; from what perspectives and towards what ends are the dominant representations geared? Without a questioning spirit, we will remain mesmerized by the "surfaces" of appearances which we will confuse for "reality". Arguably, the most inspirational quality about Biko's critical orientation is that it was not solely directed at the apartheid state. It was just as much, if not more, directed at the daily conduct and socio-political assumptions of individuals and groups in the black community, including those who were dedicated to the opposition of apartheid and the transformation of South African society. In other words, Biko's was deeply self-reflexive and even questioned his own assumptions and those of his fellow travelers. If we take Biko's critical thought on board, then we would acknowledge that as filmmakers, it is not enough to equate our visions and aesthetics with the task of simply capturing 'the reality out there'.

The perennial struggle of any artist is deciding between the choices (be they aesthetic or thematic) that continuously present themselves to us. We do not simply reflect the societies and cultures that inform our works, we do so in ways in which we consciously or unconsciously, select, foreground, ignore, use and misuse the sights, sounds and smells that make up the social fabric around us. It is therefore, important that we remain mindful of the kinds of agendas and strategies - and even bad habits - that we rely on. Similarly, we need to revisit the mantras that we have now come to take for granted. It is incumbent that we clarify what we mean and understand by the notions of communications, culture, development, transformation and freedom. We are not only reporters but interpreters and social actors as well. What we tend to take for granted as reality, culture, aesthetics, identity, nation, freedom of speech, human rights and patriotism (to select just some of the notions that form part of the popular discourse of documentary filmmakers) are phenomena that are much more constructed (rather than natural or given) and contested than what we would ordinarily like to believe. As a result, all these notions can be put to a range of very different personal and social uses that range from the humane and enriching to the fascist and destructive.

The same is true with regard to our commitment to, in the now fashionable phrase, 'speak truth to power'. Biko suggests that in our "continuous struggle for truth, we have to examine and question old concepts, values and systems". (I Write, 92) So if, we are (as we should) compelled to 'speak truth to power' we are equally required to ask ourselves what 'truth'? Whose truth? Directed at which power? Aimed at what audiences? For what purposes? While we would all like to concur that there is truth and untruth, facts and lies, we do not often acknowledge that our understanding, pursuit and championing of our 'truths', 'cultures' and 'rights' is also informed by many other factors, such as the class positions that we occupy, the ideologies that we hold, the ethnicities and nationalities that we are from, the gendered backgrounds that we are socialised under, and so on. Bearing all these variables in mind, then, we, should, as part of our spirit of questioning, take heed of the salutary caution that Biko once expressed: "the biggest mistake the black world ever made was to assume that whoever opposed apartheid was an ally". (I Write, 63). In other words, today, if you hold views that are critical of the post-apartheid South African state it does not necessarily mean that your outlook is informed by a perspective that is also for the poor, the homeless, the refugees and other social groups that are marginalized and subjugated in society.

This tension is regularly apparent in the frequency with which artists - and their colleagues in the Fourth Estate - tend to always emphasise the first generation of human rights (freedom of speech and assembly), while remaining silent about second and third generation human rights (the rights to employment, housing, education, culture, hospitable environment, and so on). I suspect that the reason is that second and third generation human rights challenge us in more uncomfortable ways since, beyond our virtuous and moralistic positions, they demand the consideration of social and economic contradictions that require us to examine our own class privileges and relative access to power. One way in which this tension manifests itself is that when we do undertake work that explores ordinary people's struggles to secure the means of life, we tend to follow too neatly the briefs of the donors and broadcasters who fund or commission our documentaries. It is no wonder than that initiatives and documentaries of this kind have been dismissed as promoting, in Edward Said's words, "the imperialism of virtue"; they are well intentioned 'shock-absorbers' promoted by philanthropic individuals, civic organizations and foundations that, whatever their merits, stop short of deeper analyses and the call for fundamental change. The ideologies espoused are a curious combination of old and new mantras: development and modernization (read westernize and privatize) have now been joined by deregulation, the internet and new media.

If we accept the need to reflect on the complexities of truth, then the same is true for our perceptions of power. We are going through a phase in South Africa where we tend to simplify power as the preserve of the government, power as synonymous with the state. The state is, of course, undoubtedly, the key institution of power within the country but I think it is important that we start to grapple with the nature and intricacies of power in more useful and challenging ways. Again, Biko has much to say on power that is stimulating. Biko was preoccupied with the challenges of how to conscientize and mobilise people so that they - as combative individuals and groups - may actively participate in the changing of South African society into a "completely non-racial and egalitarian society". (I Write, 149) Already aware of the pitfalls of African nationalism, Biko cautioned against "a mere change of face of those in governing positions" that will allow "a few blacks filtering through into the so-called bourgeoisie" while the majority remained poor. (I Write, 149)

A more refined grasp of the workings of power was crucial for Biko because of what he saw as its significance for the nature and demands of personal and social agency or intervention. Consequently, Biko sought to identify the many sites where power is located, the numerous ways in which it manifests itself and the various social groups that wield different kinds of power. Biko did not view power as singular, homogenous or as, inevitably, authoritarian. Instead, he regarded power as a much more complicated and diffuse element of what he called the "system", that is, "those operative forces in society - ...institutionalized and uninstitutionalized...that control your being, guide your behaviour, and generally are an authority over you". (Testimony, 118) Biko's use of the concept of power shares many similarities with Antonio Gramscy's elaboration of hegemony as the "exercise of intellectual and moral leadership". Gramsci regards hegemony as a sophisticated process that involves much more than straight-forward dominance. Whatever the degree of dominance, the authority of the state, for example, is never absolute and complete. As a result, power has to be continuously re-made through the social staging of acts that either rely on the forces of coercion or the construction (and circulation) of consent. This means that the power of the state, considerable and overwhelming as it is may strike us, is never complete or monolithic in its reach and its impact. By extension, the authority and assumptions of the dominant order can be expressed and encountered either as coercion or consent.

When dealing with repressive regimes, the examples of coercion is everywhere and it can easily be noted. What was less appreciated, Biko felt, was the many ways in which "the system" reproduced itself through the creative construction of consent. Of the numerous methods used, Biko emphasized the strategies that either rationalized racial superiority and inferiority as natural and even 'divinely ordained'; or those that shaped our behaviour through recourse to the politics of desire and pleasure. So, for example, if black people equate beauty with 'looking white' than they will use skin lightening creams as it was common in the past. If, today, one subscribes to the ideas that drive materialism and conspicuous consumption - such as 'survival of the fittest' and 'bigger is better' - then you are not likely to be disturbed by the horrors of capitalism. In both cases, because of compliance and agreement with the prevailing values, one contributes to the continuation of the social order. Consequently, Biko argued that citizens (black and white) were complicit, to varying degrees, in the exercise and maintenance of apartheid oppression and exploitation. Elsewhere, for instance, he observed that the "organisational development amongst blacks has only been low because we have allowed it to be". (I Write, 97) In other words, Biko felt that, willingly or grudgingly, knowingly or unknowingly, through our actions or apathy, silence or limited visions, we enable the reproduction of the status quo. If we do nothing or if our views and acts of protest remain locked within the ideological assumptions and economic interests of the prevailing order, then, in that sense, it can be claimed that, even as activists, we legitimize, or give consent, to the authorities and the society that they are overseeing and continuously reinventing. The tension between consent and coercion is in need of serious consideration in contemporary South Africa which has changed from being a repressive and racist capitalist state to being a democratic constitutional state whose capitalism continues to be structured in racial dominance in many social and economic spheres.

Following on from his argument about the layered nature of power, Biko proceeded to examine where and what other forms of power may be located and exercised outside of the usual parameters of the institutions of government. In order to elucidate the spread of authority, Biko explored how the state, interacts, firstly, with other sites of influence (such as the economy) and, secondly, with the wide range of social relationships that play themselves out between races, genders, religions and so on. He admitted that "the fact that apartheid has been tied up with white supremacy, capitalist exploitation and deliberate oppression makes the problem much more complex". (I Write, 27-28) Today, these intricate networks of power that lie outside the jurisdiction of the new South African state can either consolidate or contest the state's ability to rule effectively to the benefit of the majority of its citizens.

A quick application of Biko's analysis of power in the terrain of culture will attest to the validity of his assertions. For instance, it is commonly accepted that economic power in most countries in the South is controlled by a few wealthy individuals, companies and trans-national corporations that, in their operations, are dedicated to the advance of capitalism and imperialism. In this country, the newspaper, film, publishing, performance and music industries are under the effective control of English and Afrikaner conglomerates that, in line with the pursuit of profit, promote the saliency of whiteness under the banner of 'universality', 'standards' and globalization. Whiteness refers to the promotion of cultural values, aesthetic practices and notions of pleasure that are drawn from the North or the white community and are then presented as the norm that everyone should practice and aspire to. Drawing attention to the perils of whiteness does not absolve us from debating the challenges that we face, not only with regard to content, but to style and aesthetics.

How appealing, effective and informative are the documentaries that we produce, not in terms of their noble themes but with regard to the aesthetic choices made with regards to the use of character, English or indigenous languages, narrative structure, camera work, composition, montage, music, use of human and archival sources, and so on. As some of you are tired of hearing me say, the aesthetic choices that we make are not all predicated on the amount of money or budget that is at our disposal. Money is at the very least useful but is never a creative resource - it will facilitate (and even complicate) the conditions of production but, in my experience, money is not the sole determinant of good production values! Also, as you know, in my opinion it is not only naïve but wrong to try and create a toss up between content and form in terms of which one is "more important". I'll repeat two of my favourite anecdotes with regard to the inextricable link between form and content.: Samora Machel is supposed to have told the National Choir of Mozambique that "to sing badly is to commit a political error" and then there is Bertolt Brecht's sharp observation that "works that are aesthetically defective end up being politically defective".

We also need to carefully ponder the politics of whiteness with regard to the current celebrations of the notions of identity, hybridity, diversity and globalisation. Biko was adamant that "being black is not a matter of pigmentation" (I Write, 48), "blackness", in opposition to whiteness, was a "reflection of a mental attitude" and its advocacy of ethnic solidarity was based on the common experiences of discrimination and exploitation. (I Write, 48) Before 1994, one of the slogans of resistance was that "apartheid divides" and now we glibly extol the virtues of "managing diversity" while we retreat into ill-defined laagers of what we have come to assume to be our different cultures and identities. Such responses, in my opinion, seem to be rarely motivated by a genuine desire to proclaim and celebrate our specific cultures and identities ('in' and 'for' themselves and with due respect, not just tolerance, for other cultures, as Biko insisted). Instead, identity politics come across as tactical moves, especially amongst the elite, to broker new constituencies of power and access to material resources. One way to measure the faultlines of our 'new' ethnicities is the frequency they are accompanied by the dictates of tribal and political aristocracies and patriarchies that are increasing their violence and subjugation of women, often motivated, they tell us, by their respect and deference to 'culture'.

As far as globalization is concerned, the questions that Biko asked in relation to 'integration' are worthy of serious consideration. Biko felt that "the concept of full of unquestioned assumptions that embrace white values". (I Write, 91) In response to the query whether he was against 'integration' Biko argued that "if by integration you assimilation and acceptance of blacks into an already established set of norms and code of behaviour set up and maintained by whites, then yes I am against it". (I Write, 24) A similar interrogation is required of the unquestioned assumptions that inform the 'integration of economies' and 'cultures' in the current phase of globalization. (I say current since black intellectuals have identified slavery and the 'scramble for Africa' in 1884 as examples of earlier phases of globalization). At any rate, what are the social forces and interests behind globalization? Given its reliance on the intensive and extensive access to capital and technology - as film and media practitioners you know this fact - does globalization make us dependent on those who control access to funding and facilities? Does globalization inscribe us as producers or consumers of other people's products and content? Is it not basically the Americanization of the world with the occasional cut-and-paste of so-called 'foreign' cultures for the exotic desires, effects and consumption, as in the case of 'world music and cinema' by so-called cosmopolitan audiences? We should not, on the general level, ignore the paradox that in as much as the world has become 'smaller' and 'borders porous', the calls for debt relief for economies that are held hostage by the G8, IMF and the World Bank, the increasing numbers of displaced people as a result wars meant to 'defend democracy', the tightening of immigration laws, the proliferation of countries with nuclear capacities, global warming, and many other developments, all these development demand a more sober engagement with the pros and cons of globalization. Biko, on integration on the local and international economic levels, suggested that "if on the other hand by integration you mean there shall be free participation by all members of society, catering for the full expression of the self in a freely changing society as determined by the will of the people, then I am with you." (I Write, 24) There are, then, cultural, economic and political bonds (and responsibilities as I will discuss later), of a global nature, that can bind us in ways that enhance our collective experiences, desires and hopes as humanity.

Biko was aware that culture, like power, also required a considered and multi-pronged analytical approach because of the historical intricacies that inform the particular development of any culture. In response, Biko's analysis relied on a dual emphasis. On the one hand, Biko highlighted that colonisation involved the distortion, disfiguring and denigration of indigenous cultures together with the creation of "a bastardised culture that can only thrive at the rate and pace allowed it by the dominant culture". (I Write 29, 46) On the other hand, Biko maintained that despite its impact, colonialism did not amount to the total obliteration of indigenous culture and we can still find "fundamental aspects" of African culture. (I Write, 41) One such "fundamental aspect" that Biko was at pains to highlight again and again was that African society was "Man-centred" and premised on "the inherent goodness of man"; it promoted the "sacred tradition of sharing" and living in community as brothers and sisters. These qualities, for Biko, were in stark contrast to the promotion of individualism, competition, materialism and the "triumph of technology over man" that he associated with Western societies. (I Write, 41-42, 70) Given the convoluted history and social imperatives (with their attendant tendencies to either disparage or romanticise African culture), Biko insisted that African culture "must be defined in concrete terms. We must relate the past to the present and demonstrate an historical evolution of the modern Africa". (I Write, 70) Furthermore, we must "reject the attempts of the powers that be to project an arrested image of our culture" (I Write, 70) because "Black culture implies above all freedom on our part to innovate without recourse to white values. This innovation is part of the natural development of any culture". (I Write, 96)

Now Biko's premises on the layered-nature of power, led him to analyse not only the structures of society but also the equally significant role of consciousness in hindering or aiding our abilities to become active agents in the our personal and social lives. Biko argued that "the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed". (I Write, 68) As a result, Biko was fascinated with the need to overcome 'the psychology of oppression' or what he called "the roots of self-negation" (Testimony, 19, I Write, 21) Biko felt that black people had "developed a ...state of alienation" because of their internalization of the structural (economic), psychological and cultural violence of whiteness. The acceptance of whiteness led black and white South Africans to associate "all that is good" (in terms culture, progress and civilization) with the West (Testimony, 22-23) and, in contrast, to associate African history and culture with all that is superstitious, 'primitive' and 'uncivilized'. If blacks did not subscribe to the false values of whiteness, then the constant subjection of blacks to experiences of repression and violence served to make them acquiesce to the authorities and their condition. The logic was simple: "if you cannot make a man respect you, then make him fear you". (I Write, 31) What was troubling to Biko was that if blacks suffered "from an inferiority complex" then "they will be useless as co-architects of a normal society". In order for blacks to "learn to assert themselves" (I Write, 21), to regain their dignity, self-respect and social agency, "the first to pump back life into an empty shell" (I Write, 29) and "infuse the black community with a new-found pride in themselves, their efforts, their value systems, their culture, their religion and their outlook to life". (I Write, 49") Biko advocated a "modern culture. A culture of defiance, self-assertion and group pride and solidarity". (I Write, 46)

Now self-definition, assertion and pride also require that in as much as we must defy whiteness, our defiance should not be at the expense of making work that adds to the knowledge and celebrations of ourselves. Too often we are more preoccupied with unmasking the 'west' than engaging in the processes of retrieving, reconstruction, acknowledging and charting the immense indigenous knowledge, cultural repertoires and artistic traditions that can enrich our work, senses of self and cultures.

In a sense, then, and in line with his elaboration of coercion and consent, Biko challenges us to realise that we do have power as individuals, as groups and as communities. However limited the choices and power that we may have, it is crucial that we acknowledge that there is a measure of power that we can and do deploy in our domestic and public spheres. With regards to all the oppression and exploitation that we face, Biko insists that "we must accept that the limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress". (I Write, 90) As far as our visions are concerned, we have the power to instill compassionate and progressive human values in our homes, communities and the world at large; and to conduct ourselves and our relationships in ways that are not racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic. If we do not actively strive towards the meaningful betterment of life for all then Biko is adamant that we should be reminded of our "complicity" in allowing authority to "misuse" us and "letting evil reign supreme". (I Write, 29)

Biko goes further and uses Karl Jasper notion of metaphysical guilt to argue that we have an ethical responsibility to each other in the world, that we cannot remain ignorant or indifferent to other people's suffering; that "there exists amongst men, because they are men, a solidarity through which each shares responsibility for every injustice and every wrong committed in the world and especially for crimes that are committed in his presence or of which he cannot be ignorant. If I do not do what ever I can to prevent them, I am in accomplice with them...." (I Write, 78) In line with our responsibilities to each other Biko encouraged the development of "a solid base for meaningful the larger battle of the Third World against the rich nations". (I Write, 71) He observed that "we rely on not only on our own strength but also on the belief that the rest of the world views the oppression and blatant exploitation of the black majority by a minority as an unforgiveable sin that cannot be pardoned by civilised societies". (I Write, 71-72)

Biko, as we know, lived by his principles to the full. He said that "we must remove from our vocabulary completely the concept of fear" (I Write, 35), whether it be the "fear of authority" (Testimony, 290) or the fear of death. He felt that "a struggle without casualties is no struggle (I Write, 97) and that "you are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can't care anyway". (I Write, 152) Of the many gifts that he left us, I would like to conclude by reminding you of a task that he championed repeatedly and one that we are still to fulfill. Biko crystallized and, in a sense, summarized, all his hopes in the following call for equality, justice and compassion: "Let us march forward with courage and determination, drawing strength from our common plight and our brotherhood [and sisterhood]. In time we shall be in a position to bestow upon South Africa [and the world] the greatest gift possible - a more human face". (I Write, 98, 47)

Bhekizizwe Peterson
Professor of African Literature
School of Literature and Language Studies
Private Bag 3

* The quotations from Biko are drawn from the following texts: Steve Biko, edited by Aelred Stubbs C.R., I Write What I Like (London: Heinemann, 1984) and Steve Biko, edited by Millard Arnold, The Testimony of Steve Biko: Black Consciousness in South Africa (London: Panther Books, 1979).

14 November 2007

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On Wednesday 21st November 2007 at 3pm the Joburg branch of the DFA will be meeting with Sean Flynn of the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) affiliated to the Washington College of Law. If you have time on the day and would like to join us, please feel free. We will be meeting with Sean at Underdog: 92 Third Avenue, Melville, JHB. Please see Sean’s email, below:

Dear DFA
I am here from American University's Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) for a project we are beginning analyzing the use of "fair dealing" and other flexibilities in copyright law by documentary filmmakers.(…) This project arises out of work that PIJIP has been doing with AU's Center for Social Media to
expand the utility of the balancing features of copyright—the features that permit people who are making new work to use copyrighted material without permission or payment in some circumstances. In the U.S., the project led to the creation of a Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use (available at PIJIP and CSM are now working with the Ford Foundation to explore the extent to which some of the lessons and methodologies that have been successful in the U.S. may be useful to users, advocates and scholars in other countries. We are beginning by focusing on the countries
with "fair dealing" provisions modeled on British law.



South Africa 's longest running film festival, the Durban International Film Festival has announced that its 29th edition will take place from 23 July to 3 August 2008.

Once again the festival will present over 300 screenings of films from around the world, with a special focus on films from South African and Africa. Screenings will take place throughout Durban including township areas where cinemas are non-existent. The festival also offers a seminar and workshop programme featuring local and international filmmakers. The festival calls for entries from around the world. Feature films, short films and documentaries are all welcome. The festival does have a competition component. The deadline for entries is 31 March 2008 for short films and documentaries; 15 April 2008 for feature films. Early submissions are encouraged.

The entry form is available in HTML here .
An entry form in Word can be downloaded from the website
For more information visit:
Email or call +27 (0)31 260 2506.

Members news black

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Stills from 'Free Energy'

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DFA member, Jacqueline van Meygaarden, has been selected with her film ‘Free Energy’ to receive a prize in the Commonwealth Vision Awards 2007. She was selected as one of 8 applicants to receive a grant to make a short film based on the Commonwealth theme ‘Changing Communities, Greening the Globe. Her 90 second film promotes solar energy in poor communities and she will go to London to receive one of the top 3 three prizes at the Gala Awards on the 6th December 2007. To read more about the competition, click here .



Arya Lalloo’s article offers an incisive account of the issues at hand at this year's People to People International Documentary Conference

By Arya Lalloo

For three days in September this year, the South African documentary fraternity hosted its peers at the country’s first dedicated documentary conference.

The People to People International Documentary Conference, held at Atlas Studios in on the outskirts of Johannesburg, primarily aimed to concretise the ephemeral, but often invoked alliance of the “Global South” and was premised on an apparently common preoccupation around who tells whose story.

The conference’s organisers noted that there is “a global tide responsible for demonising and polarising peoples the world over” and that “documentary filmmaking in the South can stem this tide”.

In effect the conference also highlighted contradictions within the various, and variously, marginalised voices of this alliance that attempts to cover the greater part of the globe.

The idea of a great global north-south dichotomy came to a head in a session dedicated to unpacking the American documentary ‘The Devil Came on Horseback’.

Connie Field, the only American at the conference, sat on a panel alongside Dr. Martin Mhando (Tanzania/Australia), Newton Aduaka (Nigeria/UK), Ryan Fortune (South Africa) and Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda (Democratic Republic of Congo/France).

The African delegates took issue with the tailoring of the story for mass audience appeal and the necessary simplifications of this format.

Field agreed with many of the critiques of the film, admitting that much of the politics around the conflict, with which the African delegates were familiar, were not delved into by the filmmakers (who, she revealed, had put the film together without ever themselves having been to Darfur).

Probed about the problematic nature of much of “Northern” representations of the South, Field said: “Well I agree with that, but what we’re faced with is a contradiction, lots of films get made that way, for example ‘Blood Diamond’, I mean you have to have the Leonardo Di Caprio character, ‘The Constant Gardner’ and others, and then there is the difficulty of getting African Films seen in America, which is a really big problem.

“We sit with that contradiction, should you never make a ‘Blood Diamond’, should you never make a ‘Constant Gardener’, should you never make a ‘Devil came on Horseback?’ I would say you should make it, and again people have to fight for their space, and people here need to fight internationally to get that space so that the perspective can get created and seen, so though I conceptually agree, I think we operate inside this contradiction.”

Various other sessions at the conference however made it clear that not everyone in the South is equally up to this fight and that the contradictions between the hemispheres is replicated amongst the voices of the South.

The South African conference delegates, at the helm of the so-called African Renaissance, were challenged about their vaunted role in this rebirth and the implicit assumption of unanimity despite the vastly differing conditions that affect documentary filmmaking in the “South”.

One session in particular - a screening and discussion of the highly contested 1966 Italian film ‘Africa Addio’, elicited a whole new controversy.

Session chair Jean-Pierre Bekolo, an award winning Cameroonian filmmaker and academic, provoked the largely young black South African audience with the notion that the film’s patently racist representation of African people in the wake of decolonisation seems somewhat premonitory, in light of the continents various post-colonial atrocities.

The delegates seemed to ignore this “African” issue and steered the discussion towards black identity issues, citing the popularity of hip- hop, black booty and dreadlocks as signs that liberation has been successful in their world.

“When I talk to young Cameroonians,” retorted Bekolo, “they complain that they want roads and electricity” This dialogue seemed to substantiate Bekolo’s provocation that Apartheid might have been good for South Africa - a sentiment he says is common amongst other African communities.

“If Rwanda, Liberia, Zimbabwe and Darfur are examples of the colonial master project gone wrong, then South Africa’s ‘colonialism of a special type’ is an example of it working,” challenged Bekolo.

Other Africans interrogate the exception that is South Africa’s western development, yet young South Africa prioritises continental solidarity in a unanimous vision led by itself. “Black identity is currency now” said a young commissioning editor for the SABC, the continents most powerful public broadcaster.

The session ended before anyone could mention that a significant segment of the South African population also concerns itself more with access to electricity and running water than identity politics.

The wholesale transformation of southern crises into cultural currency is what sparked the conference, with its tide-stemming premise, to begin with. The contradictions illuminated through three days of, often, heated debate are significant to this aim and effectively demonstrate the importance of the new-born event and it’s future.

12 November 2007


Veteran American documentary filmmaker Connie Field was in South Africa in September as a participant in the People to People International Documentary Conference . She also screened her latest work "Have You Heard From Johannesburg: Apartheid and the Club of the West" to a number of local producers and directors at a gathering at the Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking. The photograph (below) appears courtesy of Film Threat where you can read a context piece about Connie Field's work.


Have You Heard From Johannesburg: Apartheid and the Club of the West

While in South Africa, Connie was interviewed by Arya Lalloo. Here is a transcript of their conversation:

Q: As a filmmaker from what (in relation to prevalent themes of the conference) could be referred to as the global north, you operate within an industry that is established in a tradition one could call liberal/progressive cultural practice… From your experience of the conference and our documentary industry, do particular debates and conflicts resonate at all?

A: Well, as I mentioned before, one that really did resonate with me, one I could identify with in terms of our own experience is this issue of who tells whose story and what it means that people tell their own story as opposed to other people telling these stories for them. This is a big issue here, because again it is a situation of basically new access to the media and to the tools of telling that story, and I can relate very much to my own history where we were debating the same things, and it is a real question.

I don’t think there’s any easy answer, because I really don’t think that your identity as a person coming from one culture or ethnic group or another should be the criteria through which you’re allowed to tell a story.
But I think what really is important is we try to learn as much as we can about each others perspectives, so if you’re going about telling a story of another group of people, you try to really understand their perspective and where they’re coming from.

I think that probably - though I didn’t get clear answers about Darfur and its nothing I’ve studied, it was very interesting what got said - there were two things I picked up that were key, other than the question of whose perspective, because the story was told from the perspective of a white soldier. One was the issue of defining it as Arab and Bantu in that country because people really said that that’s not what they see and that’s not what’s going on, and to define it that way in America makes an enemy of the Arab and this resonates.

I was surprised because that’s not how I’d heard anybody hear it in America, nor had I read this opinion in any of the reviews because I did look over those.

That was something that was stirring up in America, but I thought it was interesting, and the other panellists felt that it was much more a political thing- that the janjaweed was put together by the government there and that there were major oil interests in the land that the Bantu were living on, and that that’s the whole perspective it should be put into, and that by delineating Arab and Bantu that point was lost. People also made the point that if you stand these people next to each other you really couldn’t see the difference in a lot of respects- that I understood out of it, which I think was very important.

Q: The session entitled Global Solidarity; between you and Jihan El Tahri a filmmaker from what can be referred to as the global South, there was an intimation that you share a certain set of concerns.

A: Jihans is from Egypt and she was born in Lebanon, and so she considers herself part of this continent, I am obviously not- I was born in America which is why I also chose to take on the global aspect of the liberation campaign here in South Africa. I’m not telling a story that’s from the South African point of view, and I did that consciously, again because of this issue of who tells what story- again I feel that I can tell that story because that’s part of what my life was like, and other people involved as I am- you could call us the north. Of course the story’s not only about that- it involves all that Africa did, and India.

So I suppose she and I share a global interest, her father was a diplomat, and in that sense its similar, and we possibly share a certain perspective. Where I very much come from and this is why I was so interested in doing this project is that I see the worlds ability to change and progress in terms of human rights and human dignity, composed of two elements- one is peoples strengths in fighting for their own rights against incredible odds which this story involves- I mean you were fighting the strongest army on the continent, and the most entrenched white regime on the continent. Then the other side of that is the ability of human beings to care so deeply about the concept and importance of human rights and human dignity that they will dedicate their lives in solidarity with people who are fighting, and its those two things coming together that give me hope for us continually to progress.

The first one is a matter of strength, and having this other component means, (what I show in the international aspect of the campaign- and I think this is true- it comes out in all kinds of our belief systems, that there is a need for a moral structure to our universe- it allows us to participate and gives strength to people who are on the ground fighting. This is what won the struggle here I think, that combination, and it was a combination the liberation movements here decided on and went after, again it was a strategic component of it.

But there’s a couple of things I’d like to talk about with the conference, its was interesting to be an outsider listening to these things. I was taken by the discussion of making films about HIV and AIDS inflicted people – and most of those people live in poverty and what that means. And the challenges that they face. And the fact that they have people as characters in their film who decide they do not want to be seen by anybody, they just didn’t have the strength and then having to work through to try to bring that person to the point where they feel comfortable, so that then six months later they could get the film out. I think people from my country are sensitive about this, but we would probably go and get our release form signed to do that.

And the other thing was the whole thing about working in a milieu of poverty because your really a third and first world country mixed right up against each other. All the kinds of ethical questions about filming poor people and their right to ask for money is a real, serious issue. Doing the film that I did about the Cuban doctors and where the people that they were serving are people who are also fighting great poverty. I was making the film about the doctors so I wasn’t confronted with that question. I have been in other work that I’ve done, so I’ve made an ethical question not to choose that person because I won’t pay them, because I’d only do that if I could pay everybody.
But these weren’t situations where I was dealing with very poor people, I found this dilemma facing documentary filmmakers here absolutely fascinating because its such different circumstances that you work and live in than I do and a lot of American do.

The other session that really interested me was the debate between the producers and the SABC ( South African Broadcasting Corporation) because there’s such a difference about how you’re allowed to do your work here, and you have to rely on SABC and these kinds of sources as they’re the only sources for funding. We’re in a very different milieu and largely because of our government agencies, you’ve got some here with the film resource unit (NFVF) Eddie Mbalo does and it funds things, but its small. Whereas we have and its probably the largest establishment of private and public funders in the world in the U.S.A and that’s an enormous resource for us as filmmakers and it allows us an enormous independence in terms of topics and visions and how we make our films and the fact that we have in our public broadcasting, speciality slots that are for these independently produced documentaries, like Independent Lense and POV. We also have other avenues like HBO and Showtime, that will buy up peoples work and fund some of it, but we’ve got a space were we can operate that you don’t have and it makes a huge difference.

Q: The Keynote address by Professor Bhekisiswe Peterson confronts the value of Steve Biko’s thinking for self- referential documentary filmmaking in the South. “A system will not concede what’s not demanded”

One of your chosen aesthetics and forms- that of revisiting past popular struggles/grassroots movements could be seen as a record of ways to intervene upon/effect change within or against a certain system/ set of praxis. In this way it transcends documentary to become an example of a particular democratic process. Do you conceive of your work as being functional, in the sense that it presents a thorough seemingly objective case- study of sorts, for use by future civic activists?

A: Yes and I guess in that way the work that I do is a reflection of that concept that was presented at the conference, and because it is about stories that portray that, that things are demanded from your political systems and what it takes to win those demands.

I grew up in a period where I didn’t know anything about this. When I participated in the social movements during those times, one of the things that we were amazed at- which is why I think that a lot of us activists then, made a lot of historical films as our first films. We were reading about things in the past and we realised that these things were never taught to us. It’s not taught in America, where social security and unemployment insurance comes from, which is from people who were demonstrating for the communist and socialist parties in the United States for the vision of the twentieth century who felt that this is how we’re going to solve our problems of inequality. That got picked up by a Roosevelt and then implemented and that’s not how those things were taught to us, we were taught they came from Roosevelt, and history is taught as a history of great men, and we learned that that isn’t it, and that people are part of making that history and it’s a dynamic between the two, and it greatly fed what we were doing and gave us a different sense of our own role. I mean not all my films are about that- my first film Rosie the Riveter’s not but others since then are.

The other thing is that we don’t get taught our victories, and its really important to know them. Its also very important to know how they happened and I guess thematically both Freedom on my Mind and Have You heard from Johannesburg: Apartheid and the Club of the West have to do with that formulation that I talked about- the partnership between people fighting for their rights and people who care so much about that as a moral dictum in the world, that they work together. Freedom on my mind, about the civil rights movements in Mississippi, culminates in a summer where the African American movement used the system to work against the system, and invited young white people down from communities all over the united states, because the media would follow them and this would then platform the issue. These people came down and that is in fact what it did, and it also, though I didn’t tell this in the story is that many of those individuals were seminal in starting the rest of the movements all around the country, the woman’s movement etc. that came out of that period. I guess I must think that’s important because I suppose that’s what have you heard from Johannesburg is about, and so yes, I’m very much informed by that quote from Biko.

Q: Back to the a central theme highlighted in the Keynote address, Biko’s notion of a critical conciousness- part of this including the idea that “to get the right answers we must ask the right questions” This process of assumption and selection, in an entirely pragmatic sense translates for example to the process of character selection and narrative structure. During the session which unpacked the issues raised by The Devil Came on Horseback it was apparent through both the panels and audiences response that these formal choices were seen as problematic. What is your opinion?

A: The thing I said to people there about the Devil came on Horseback is that its been a very successful story in the United States. What really works for story, in fact the most effective stories are about round one character, audiences relate to that. Making that character be an American also opens it up, especially “middle- American”, I mean he was a marine, he’s not a progressive, he learns through things, by what he did, in this way the film exposes the issue of Darfur to a very wide audience, and it helps bring up conciousness about it. Added to this was the fact that it was a ready made story, it was about someone finding something, someone being on a journey to try to get that exposed, what happens to him, so there’s a question, you’re weighing against from whose point of view the story gets told, on the other hand you’re doing a story that because of its point of view makes it more accessible for an American audience, and thereby makes it an issue that the society is more aware of and certainly does in our country function that way which is important.

Q:Do you think that this conciousness you talk of being raised in the United States created by the effective use of the character who is American who ensures audience engagement could also be seen as problematic, in relation to a repeated phrase at the conference “until the lions tell the tale of the hunt, the story will always glorify the hunter”?

A: Well I agree with that, but what we’re faced with is a contradiction, lots of films get made that way, for example Blood Diamond, I mean you have to have the Leonardo Di Caprio character, The Constant Gardner and others, and the problematic nature of getting African Films seen in America, which is a really big problem, and then from where we sit with that contradiction, should you never make a Blood Diamond, should you never make a Constant Gardener, should you never make a Devil came on Horseback? I would say you should make it, and again people have to fight for their space, and people here need to fight internationally to get that space so that the perspective can get created and seen, so though I conceptually agree I think we operate inside this contradiction.

Q: A throughline of the conference was that the independent filmmaker, the black filmmaker, the woman filmmaker , the documentary filmmaker are subject to practical oncerns around briefs, funding and freedom – all related to differential access. I’d like to refer to an interview in Cineeast 1995 – Progress and Misgivings in Missisipi in which you discuss your telling of a particular aspect of the civil rights movement.

A: I would have had no right to make that film had Eyes on the Prize not been made first. Its something that I’ve been interested in personally all of my adult life. The very first man I’d lived with when I was very young- 19 had been down to Mississippi as a white person, and I’d been hearing those stories from that age, and I had the visceral sense because I came of age and joined the movement around the time of the anti- Vietnam war era that he had built what I walked in on. I started out to make the film being told from three different points of view- from the point of view of a black Mississipian, a snick organiser and a white person who comes down to join them. Originally I intended to make a drama, and I wanted to show in the film that the civil rights movements led the rest of the movements in the 70’s. I didn’t really end up making that film, because we found ourselves making a film from too many points of view, and at some points a film starts to speak to you, and you have to follow it, so we knew this thing had to have a stronger point of view. Once we decided it was the point of view of the Mississippians, it had its own motion and it ended where it ended and I couldn’t do the other stuff I wanted to do, had I done that I would not be following the strong storyline of the film, so it meant leaving out some reasons why I wanted to make it in the first place. We’ve gotten two responses that I can remember when speaking with it (the film), the one was… I can’t remember where we were, but an African American asked us what right we have to make this story, because we were white, and so I told her and I told her about my personal history and it built the movement I entered, and so I felt I owned part of it, I wasn’t just an observer.

The other was when we were showing it in Los Angeles at a class at a university and Marilyn and I went out to get dinner, and Los Angeles being what it is we got lost, and so by the time we got back, they’d started the discussion already and they were totally shocked when we walked in the room because they thought it had been made by African Americans, because of the perspective, so you know its interesting because its both sides of the coin, and this was in the mid nineties, so all those issues that you’re grappling with now, they still go on where I come from.

As I’ve said before I would never have touched that subject matter had eyes on the prize not been made, in a way I feel I’ve jumped the gun with Have you Heard from Johannesburg, in a way I’m glad I did because there are lots of people I interviewed who are dead now. Also what I’m getting a sense of from just showing this one episode here, is that a lot of people don’t know that that happened, so maybe its going to, I hope, give people validation and a sense of pride, that you were able to muster that kind of caring and attention from the entire world.

Q: Petersons question, echoed by many of the participants was around the dependence on funding from either corporate sources, NGO’s or government, and the fact that these sources might or might not have certain agendas which conflict with the basics of critical conciousness as outlined in the keynote address. “If our views and acts of protest remain locked within the ideological assumptions and economic interests of the prevailing order then it can be claimed that even as activists we legitimise or give consent to the authorities and the societies they oversee.”

A: Well again I say that this is one of the contradictions that you have to live with, I find as a filmmaker I have more freedom working in the foundations, but the foundations will only fund my films if it’s an issue that is on their agenda, so I have to pick out the ones where this is their concern, but they don’t demand control over my film.
Neither does a government agency like the National Endowment for the humanities- they just change because when they get a different head; politically appointed by the president, they will let certain things through and other things not. In the last few years lots of things have been stopped by them instead of taking panel recommendations they’d be stopped, but I think this is what we live with. Darwin’s Nightmare is a great example of a way forward, even though someone at the conference was arguing that HDTV when it goes up there and transmits is going mean everyone has to have supreme equipment and is going to put us back in that age, but I don’t agree.

I think the technologies will develop accordingly as they’ve been doing. Darwin’s Nightmare was shot on a PD150, a small camera, and he’s got a good artistic eye, I’ve heard in some interviews he was using a sungun, like in the scene where he’s filming the guard, but its beautifully composed.

There are lots of things filmmakers are doing on their own, they get their hands on the equipment, stuff is edited on computers, tools are available to people like never before. When I started out in film, you shot on film, you had sixty thousand dollar piece of equipment that was your film editor called the Siemens. You couldn’t afford the cameras, only people who worked professionally as cameramen could ever afford the camera’s.
Another case in point is film called China Blue, and the Producer/Director Mika Pillad shot it himself on my friend Marilyn’s PD 150 in China, and its shown all over the world and its been bought by broadcasters, its not like it was all done for free, he got money from TV stations to do it, but there’s much more freedom now and that’s what we have to take advantage of.

Right now younger filmmakers in America, they just go out and make a film, they buy a little bit of equipment and they go out and shoot it and distribute it. There’s a film called Hotel Katrina, and they just went out and shot it and have gotten it on the festival circuit, and have gotten it in venues that are not top theatrical venues, we call them semi- theatrical venues. They have handled that themselves, and they’re getting the film out there all over the place. They’re really an example of what goes on in my country that I think people can do here, and the fact that these two films, China Blue and Darwin’s Nigtmare, were shot on PD 150’s, small camera’s; is about the importance of story. The subject was so important, people cared about it, and certainly in the case of Darwin’s Nightmare, his artistic sensibility was so acute that those films have been big successes, and so you work more on your own.

Q: In Have you Heard from Johannesburg: Apartheid and the Club of the West, the film is about working the system as opposed to opposing it, questions arise from that, do you think a different film, one that explicitly told the implicit aspect of your story- a revolt against the ideologies of power…

A: Well I think it does have that aspect, that issue being defined on the top was a Cold War issue, its like the Vietnam war, I mean these were communists, any time you put that in the equation you have a gut reaction in my country because its so defined by the cold war. It’s like what we do to Cuba; I mean why in this day and age do we have an imbargo on this tiny little island, how is this tiny little island a threat to the united states or the world?
That’s what people accepted, and that’s what people in the corridors of power in our country, in our government accepted, so that had to be broken down.

Basically the story is about breaking down the dominant ideology, putting up another and saying sorry this is an issue about race, its an issue about white people oppressing black people, and once they did that, because of what that history means in the United States, because we’re really very similar to you; this is the only place in the world where (even Pik Botha says this and its true) you’re a society defined by race, and the primary race you’re defined by is basically African and white. It’s the same with us, we’ve never gotten over our history of slavery, we’ve never gotten those issues resolved and largely its because of the economic issue.

It won’t go away until the economic issue gets solved by a different kind of system because forever you’ll have people trapped in poverty, and there’s more people trapped that way based on race- same as here, so it is about that story because once they changed the terms of that debate, because of that history, they could use all the power that that history had in America, to change this, so it does exactly have to do with that.

Q: You’ve told the story through this functional movement that used successfully used capitalism against itself...

A: I wouldn’t say that. I would say the divestment movement did that, yes. I would say the rest of it is how at its best democracy can work. Where they used the capitalist movement against itself is in the divestment part of the film, because the united states had more companies pull out of South Africa than in any other part of the world, and when I first started doing the film and was asking questions I realised that we’re not a social democracy, all of our pensions- these kinds of assets, that you have in your union and you have in your church etc, are all in the stock market, its all privatised so you have leverage. So in that sense the divestment and getting the companies out was really what you said, using the capitalist system, but the point wasn’t to fight capitalism, it was to bring about liberation, so that fact that we’re a very privatised society meant that we had more leverage.

Q: Presenting the system as something that can yield, if there’s enough of a mass movement against it, it can change and it can effect great change…

A: Well that’s what happened here…

Q: Yes, a panellist in one of the sessions said to a certain sentiment present in the audience’s response “It would be great guys if we could talk about where socialism went but that’s not what we’re here for…

A: But that is a big important question.

Q: Yes, and bearing that in mind there might be some who don’t view the effected change as you do, that heart of mass ability and the ability to effect change, that there was so much American money in this country that could be pulled out to topple apartheid, that that very system shouldn’t be glorified…

A: No, but it doesn’t glorify it, it just looked at the tactics you could work with. You have to work with what the world is, this is partly the reason in this country that things have gone the way they’ve gone, because the world had a huge shift, when the Berlin Wall came down, it was huge. That’s just when your country was forming, and people here quite rightly didn’t want to have what happened in Mozambique and places where half of them just flew, you couldn’t do it, you have to deal with that, and it presents another situation of contradictions, but the question there of where did socialism go is a very important question. That’s the reason I was attracted to making Salud, because the first thing when Gayle Reed came to me to ask if I wanted to do this, was yeah, because you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and that’s what the story’s about, Many things were important about the systems that were our ideal of the last century which is what the communist and socialist systems were. We thought, this is whats going to solve the class war, this is going to solve economic disparities. Then Cuba has been in certain ways very successful, at least in two areas- health and education. It’s an extraordinary place of ingenuity because you have healthy educated people dealing with problems of scarcity which is huge in that society. So this was taking something very concrete from that which has to do with healthcare ,which everbody in the world is confronting, and presenting a portrait of it, that was something very successfully done in this particular place and that question of what happened to socialism and where it went and what that means is very important and is a serious question that nobodies really dealt with yet, and probably a really good thing to ask here because you’ve got to do something or else your countries going to blow-up and I think you all know that. So its got to come from the ground forces in relating to the government, because you do live in a democracy now and so you can do the same things we’ve done in our country.

Q: Well that offers a way forward. The conference highlighted a general feeling that something has to be done, its difficult because we’ve entered history at a certain point. Your country, its history of activism, documentary film, all its cultural products inform how the rest of the rest of the world develops, because it…

A: Because it defines everything, it dominates the world.

Q: Yes, and the notion that a movement that exists in the States could topple the power that it is, is absurd in a way.

A: Well it isn’t absurd, but its basically that we’re in no shape to do that or change that. Many people in America are not very happy about how it conducts itself in the world and otherwise. As I’ve think I’ve said, the world suffers from the lack of a new vision, because socialism and communism have in a sense been disreputed, nobody’s gone through an analysis of that or come up with something else. People have to have a vision of the possible, we’ve got this problem what’s going to solve it, and it’s the same problem of the last century except now we’ve got a different dynamic, which the whole 9/11 caused, this terrible thing.

In a way the trajectory in the last century was a fight against institutionalised racism and colonialism and we won that fight. W.E.B Du Bois at the beginning of the century said this century will be around the issue of race, well then this next century should be around getting rid of poverty, making economic equality happen, and I mean we’ve gotten way laid by what’s going on in the world right now. I do find and really believe that that is the issue of the 21st century, and we’ve gotten kind of waylaid by what’s going on in the world right now, and I’m not sure what all of this fundamentalism plays or how it fits in because it doesn’t exactly fit in, but we don’t have the ability right now, without coming up with concrete ways of how the system would function differently. We can make political differences, we’ve made a differerence in Iraq, this is why the democrats were voted in and stand a very good chance of winning the next election, and its over that issue that the whole republican party is imploding.

Q: Your context and what you offer in terms of strategies and activism operates in its way under this umbrella, whereas in contemporary South Africa, we’ve come straight out of a history where that the umbrella was toppled, a government was shaken from its seat of power. Many of the documentary filmmakers who attended the conference come from this history of acting against a system they achieved an end to. This is their framework and informs the way in which they strategise or struggle to effectively interrogate the new system that won over the old…

A: Right and that’s what’s hard, it’s a difficult transition, how to criticise the new government, many of whom were the liberation fighters who brought this forward, and the fact that it hasn’t quite done what everyone expected, its very hard but it is the job at hand isn’t it?

Q: Well how does a filmmaker or activist here jump the steps of the kind of history of almost co-operative activism, that is a long process that deals with an increasingly impenetrable system and then has to learn to work around it and find new channels, because we need to do it now, and these broad brushstrokes of ideology we still hold onto can’t effect change because there are no channels yet for them to work through...

A: Right they’re in development, it means a lot more work figuring them out. But your system is not as solidified as we have in our country but you face the same problems, that’s what I mentioned to what I learned from Bob Moses, what he said was what he accomplished in Mississippi all they did was bring it up to the level of the country, and you’re brought up to the level of the world really and facing the same problems everyone faces but in different degrees, the part of your country that’s developing faces the same problem people all over Africa do, and that’s all that happened- the main problem hasn’t been solved yet, and that’s economic inequality and all that that means.