S.A. Eco Film Festival – why the value of storytelling should never be negated

There’s no question that the documentation of stories is important. As humans, it’s something that we’ve practised since the beginning of our time – be it through art, writing, or oral. In today’s world, the means of story-telling has vastly increased, and we have the ability to portray our stories to others in a way that makes them feel like they were there. Books happen to be my favourite at this, but I can’t help but stand in awe of the work, skill and vision that goes into creating films.

April 2016 saw the Labia Theatre in Cape Town play host to the S.A Eco Film Festival – an event showcasing multiple screenings with the aim of raising awareness of the many pressing environmental issues our planet is facing and the solutions to solve them. The work of internationally renowned filmmakers is featured, with amazing documentaries exploring topics such as climate change, pollution, food, conservation issues, sustainable energy and more. Here, through educating, the festival hopes to inspire and challenge viewers in an effort to draw them into action.

labia theatre

So much of the mission resonated with me because, in essence, that is what Public Spirit is about. It’s a medium that, through story-telling, stirs up the desire to take action in the heart of the reader. Each of us is passionate about a topic or issue. Each of us has something to contribute to our world. However big or small, we need to know that our deeds have power, and that we have the ability to influence.

This year, the S.A Eco Film Festival introduced the S.A Directors Showcase, which provides local filmmakers with a platform for an audience, contacts, and the possibility for potential project supporters. Although the general theme for the festival focuses on topics branching from environmental issues, the S.A Directors Showcase screened documentaries which touched on issues regarding social justice such as spatial violence, gentrification and gangsterism.

These were the works that were screened:

War In The Valley Of Plenty, directed by James Tayler, courtesy Switch Films

A 25 minute long documentary, the film centres around the issue of gang violence specifically in Hanover Park, and features the remarkable work of NGO Ceasefire, which has to this day has reduced the rate of homicides in the area by 51%. Their methods have been to recruit and place ex-gangsters in the midst of conflict and act as “violence interrupters” to ease tensions between gangs.

Finding Shadrek, directed by Simon Kerfox Taylor, courtesy Periphery Films

A 27 minute long film which explores the governance concerning poaching and the transition that indigenous hunter people of Southern Africa had to undergo. It features discussions surrounding the future of wildlife conservation, as well as the raw stories and opinions of those involved in both sides of the spectrum – poaching and conservation.

SanDance, directed by Richard Wicksteed, courtesy OneTime Films

A 20 minute long work in progress, SanDance, with its raw camera footage, takes viewers directly into the lives of the San people and their culture. It documents the annual San dance festival, traditional music, as well as their trance healing practices.

Not In My Neighbourhood, directed Kurt Orderson, courtesy Azania Rizing

A 10 minute long portrait of stories which conveys the feelings and struggles of those subjected to gentrification and spatial violence. The documentary features the accounts of three such individuals in three different cities. Not In My Neighbourhood wrestles with the notion that previously third world cities are being transformed into world class status while ordinary citizens struggle to keep pace.

Labia Theatre

Four very-eye opening and impactful films, the Eco Film Festival and the directors involved in these projects had gone far beyond my imaginings for educating the public on these topics of social justice. But what was even more gripping for me were the discussions that took place when the floor was opened to questions for the directors.

Yes, it’s an outstanding feat that we can be exposed to these works, but one of the questions posed highlighted a possibility of screening the films in the communities they actually focused around. War In The Valley Of Plenty, for example, has the potential to assist Ceasefire in decreasing the number of deaths due to gang violence if gangsters, and the youth who look up to them, could only be made aware of their options. It was great to see that director James Tayler made a point to chat to the audience about achieving this goal, and I’m truly excited to see where this idea is going to be taken.

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