Jans Rautenbach lyk soos enigiemand se Oupa. As South Africa’s most celebrated and controversial filmmaker, Think!Fest sat down with legendary Jans Rautenbach to discuss his career and role in film.
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Only due to be released internationally on 16 October, movie-goers at Festival were treated with a preview of Jans Rautenbach’s new film, Abraham, at the Olive Schreiner Room, Monument, on Friday.
In an opinion piece for Cue, Sihle Mthembu wrote that there was little attention given to recent South African cinema. Mthembu said that the lack of focus on the film programme is a direct result of the fact that there is no Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Award given for film in 2015.
South American filmmakers Alvaro Brechner and Pablo Cesar shared the experience they had with bolstering their continent’s flagging independent cinema industry, hoping that it can benefit the South African film industry.
The different aspects of filmmaking are busy enough as they are, but local filmmaker Siviwe Honoboke Mashiyi, from Umtata, has decided to take them all on solo. In his two short films, he plays the role of the writer, producer, director, and actor.
Film is not part of South Africa’s ongoing cultural conversation. This is evidenced by the fact that of the 48 films that will be screened at this year’s Festival, only four have been released within the past year.If you have been to the film events at the Festival, you will notice the attendance numbers are low – and with good reason. Why should anyone have to brave the late-night Grahamstown cold for a screening of a film that they could just see online when they get back home?
No, really, some of the films on this year’s programme have been posted in full on YouTube and torrent sites. And as illegal as this is, the curators of the film programme must understand that these types of practical questions are what they are fighting against in the battle for share of eyes.
I think the lack of focus on the film programme is a direct result of the fact that there is no Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Award given in the category this year. Therefore there is no figurehead to champion cinema’s cause. There is no young trailblazer to look forward to and engage with. This might cause the film programme to be seen as an optional extra, and thus there is no urgency to attend.
Only six people have ever received the award for film. By not giving out the prize for film more frequently, the Festival is saying that there is little worthwhile happening in South African cinema, which sends out a signal to possible attendees to avoid film altogether. This is an injustice to a new wave of South African filmmakers, because there is enough young talent making interesting and challenging work to justify a regular awarding of the prize. And it’s the Festival that would gain the most from this.
Since it would be impossible to finance the making of a new feature film by the young artist of the year, why not fund a short film? Then, let them present a retrospective of their work, as they have done in the past with recipients like Jahmil XT Qubeka. South African film programmes can be very nostalgic and this year’s line-up is evidence of that. But even this can be packaged in an interesting way if a young artist gets the award. Create a strand where the award winner for film can share the films that most influenced them. It’s all good and well to have a Pasolini film in the Festival, but if an Akin Omotoso or Claire Angelique is contextualising the film and discussing how it influenced them. Then the experience becomes infinitely richer and more relatable. The nostalgia becomes palatable and does not exist just for its own sake.
The film programme, if it’s determined to grow, needs an increased emphasis on locality. There is value, of course, in the screening of restored South African films, because it reminds us that as a country we have a film language – one that is historically rich, contentious, and stretches beyond the immediacy of the last 15 years. With films like Umbango and Joe Bullet we are getting the rare treat of seeing films that were not – and could not be – appreciated in their time. With that in mind, however, let’s not repeat the past. We should avoid a situation where, 30 years from now, attendees of the Festival have to watch a film from 2015 because it was not appreciated in our time.
Cue specialist writer
Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner, Kemang Wa Lehulere showcases his exhibition History Will Break Your Heart at this years festival. The exhibition explores his artistic endeavours, as well as the works of other South African artists. For those that can’t make it up to the Monument Art Gallery, take a virtual tour of some of the exhibition.
In the age of digital and DVD most of us have lost the technical art of projecting film. Cinematograph projectionist, Janadien Cupido, is one of the few masters left in this field – living and working with film in all its forms to keep it alive. Cue interviewed him at the Olive Schreiner room at the Monument about how his passion for film was born.
“It was around August of 1968. I was still in primary school, when I was assisting my brother in the projection booth in Cape Town. I got fascinated with these projectors. I said to him, ‘What are those things with the sparks coming out everywhere?’ He took me to the projector and he explained to me in detail that this is the upper mechanism, this is the lamp. And so I looked around and
Janide Cupido loading a roll of film onto the projecter. Photo: Charles Harry Mackenzie
said, ‘But this thing is running at a speed!’ It was running at 1,400 revs per minute, four picture frames per second and travelling at 90 feet per second followed by sound. I was fascinated.
“Then I became my brother’s assistant in the projection booth, on the condition that my mother agreed to it. I began with manually rewinding the reels for him for the next screening.
“I completed my apprenticeship in 1968 at the Broadway Cinema in Lansdowne, Cape Town. I got my license in ’73, and I worked with the late James Polley at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town. In 1990 James brought me to Grahamstown for the National Arts Festival. To the day it is 25 years that I’ve been here.
“The magic of the film image could be seen in pictures such as Ben-Hur, which was in 3D. It filled the whole screen; unlike the tiny little DVD screen that we have in today’s time. In the opening of each film we would turn the volume up in the projection booth at the opening credits to get people’s attention, especially with the lion from MGM studios. It was just amazing. Projector image, to me, is just the real thing.”
Cue student reporter
This year’s Film Festival is pulled together by veteran curator Trevor Steele Taylor, with a unique range of themes, epochs and cultures that sheds light on the pressing issues of our time. Through this diverse array Steele Taylor shows that great films are an artistic and social obligation.
Utopia, a powerful film by John Pilger, well-known Australian film maker and left wing commentator, explores continued racism against the country’s indigenous people – the Aboriginals.
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