Early yesterday morning, the crew of student-led production group Gorilla Milkshake pursued mime and stiltwalker Richard Antrobus as he poked across the predawn detritus of the Grahamstown municipal dump.
Almost an hour of footage must be edited down by the team in a matter of days to provide sixty seconds of compelling commentary on Grahamstown, before they return to sifting through the Festival for three more minutes of considered commentary on its cultural community in the coming days.
Grahamstown Front Stage and Back Stage, With or Without Make Up, funded by Dutch-Flemish cultural organisation DeBuren, is an initiative involving Rhodes University fourth-year television students. The students collaborate in groups of two or three to produce one-minute short pieces examining Grahamstown through the metaphors suggested by the title of the initiative.
DeBuren was involved in the Festival in 2009, collaborating on a series of five radiobooks with South African authors.
“I was impressed by the energy of the National Arts Festival and wanted to come back with a new project,” said Dorian van der Brempt of DeBuren.
The one-minute documentary series marks their 2010 Festival return.
“It’s surprising how much you can achieve in a minute,” said Sibongile Mafu who, along with crewmates Jess Levy and Anesu Chingono, will turn the dumpyard stiltwalking into a mini-documentary – one of four they will be producing in the coming days.
Explaining the choice of location and lead characters for their first piece, Levy said that “the rubbish epitomises the backstage of Grahamstown”, highlighting aspects of the town that the Festival might not otherwise address directly.
“As much as it’s an art thing, it’s also an economics thing,” Mafu said, pointing out that the dump is simultaneously a metaphorical and literal backstage to the life of the festival below.
The work of Gorilla Milkshake joins the 24 one-minute pieces which will be screened with contributions from various writers, including Brink Scholtz, Ronelda Kamfer, Ingrid Winterbach and Toast Coetzer, as a portrait of Grahamstown. The showings will take place on 1 and 2 July at the Hands On! Masks Off! programme series at the Oatlands school hall at 6pm.
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