The Devil You Dance With

The Devil You Dance With: Film Culture in the New South Africa

EDITED AND WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY Audrey Thomas McCluskey
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt1xcjpw
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  • Book Info
    The Devil You Dance With
    Book Description:

    South African film culture, like so much of its public life, has undergone a tremendous transformation during its first decade of democracy. Filmmakers, once in exile, banned, or severely restricted, have returned home; subjects once outlawed by the apparatchiks of apartheid are now fair game; and a new crop of insurgent filmmakers are coming to the fore. _x000B__x000B_This extraordinary volume presents twenty-five in-depth interviews with established and emerging South African filmmakers, collected and edited by Audrey Thomas McCluskey. The interviews capture the filmmakers spirit, energy, and ambition as they attempt to give birth to a film culture that reflects the heart and aspirations of their diverse and emergent nation. The collection includes a biographical profile of each filmmaker, as well an introductory essay by McCluskey, pointing to the themes, as well as creative differences and similarities, among the filmmakers.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09186-5
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    The recent rash of internationally distributed films from South Africa deals in some way or another with the country’s tumultuous racial history. The ideology and legacy of state-sanctioned white supremacy and oppression are dealt with directly inCatch a Fire(2006) and indirectly in the Academy Award–winningTsotsi(2005).¹ As is frequently the case today, both of these films had international or multinational backers. An increasing number of foreign film companies use this scenic country as a backdrop even when the subject is not about South Africa. It serves as an ideal location for film production because it is...

  5. INTERVIEWS
    • Beathur Baker
      (pp. 21-26)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and BEATHUR BAKER

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: In the last decade, have film and television been able to tell new stories about Africa that were unknown to most South Africans?

      BEATHUR BAKER: That depends. What I have not liked about what has happened recently with film in this country is that a lot of these stories have been colonized or taken over by white filmmakers. In order to attract the majority [black] audiences to television, black writers would be hired, but then the story would be given to a white director and a producer. These guys would insist that actors speak textbook versions of...

    • Pascal Mzwandile Damoyi
      (pp. 27-32)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and PASCAL MZWANDILE DAMOYI

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Pascal, I want to begin by asking you about how you are involved in filmmaking.

      PASCAL MZWANDILE DAMOYI: My involvement is in a number of ways. One is the putting together an arts festival in Alexandra Township, which is about twenty kilometers north of Johannesburg. It’s an annual event produced by my company, Kopitseng Productions, a film media and entertainment company. This is my second year doing this. The reason for this project at this point in time is not profit making. It is a project that connects me to the social milieu and historical issues of...

    • Mike Dearham
      (pp. 33-37)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and MIKE DEARHAM

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Mike, you do a lot to promote and support black filmmakers on the continent at FRU (Film Resource Unit). Why are there so few women filmmakers included in that group?

      MIKE DEARHAM: On one level, access to information on finance and economic benefits for women is just not in place. Secondly, policies in African countries don’t favor women. Thirdly, the whole culture is crazy thinking that men are the head of the community and the home. This is still present in the thinking of people of influence on this continent both in government and the private sector....

    • Mickey Madoba Dube, Sechaba Morojele, and Akin Omotoso
      (pp. 38-47)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY, MICKEY MADOBA DUBE, SECHABA MOROJELE and AKIN OMOTOSO

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Today I am sitting in on a roundtable discussion with filmmakers Mickey Madoba Dube, Sechaba Morojele, and Akin Omotoso. Akin graciously allowed us to meet at T.O.M., his film production company’s office here in Johannesburg. I would like to continue this conversation by asking each of you to comment on the health of the film culture in South Africa at the present time.

      MICKEY MADOBA DUBE: I think that what’s happening now is the beginnings of the rebirth of cinema. Until a few years ago, most of the films made in South Africa were Canadian or European...

    • Ingrid Gavshon
      (pp. 48-51)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and INGRID GAVSHON

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: You returned to South Africa, your home, after living and working in Europe. What were the circumstances that got you started in film, and what are your impressions of the changes since you returned?

      INGRID GAVSHON: Actually, it goes way back. In the 1970s, I worked for a photographer and for a lawyer. In 1988, a friend of mine—a South African living and working in television in Britain—knew that I wanted to get into television as a researcher and gave me a break. I worked there for two years, two and a half years. In...

    • Angus Gibson
      (pp. 52-60)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and ANGUS GIBSON

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Angus, how long have you been directing films?

      ANGUS GIBSON: I’ve worked in film for about twenty years. I entered the film industry with the intention of making narrative fiction, partly because of the way that the industry was in South Africa and finding myself unable to engage with the local industry. The space I found to make films was in documentaries—with funding from abroad.

      ATM: What was the subject of these documentaries?

      AG: In the eighties, I decided I wanted to do an epic kind of verité documentary about the comrades in Soweto. I, in...

    • Kevin Harris
      (pp. 61-66)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and KEVIN HARRIS

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Kevin, tell me about your involvement in documentary filmmaking in this country.

      KEVIN HARRIS: It goes back to 1974. I was studying electrical engineering, and halfway through college, I realized I really did not want to do it. I was interested in popular music and playing in a band, and I thought I would become a music producer, using my technical background. SABC [South African Broadcasting Corporation], which is the [national] broadcaster—there was only one back in those days—was controlled by the apartheid government. I joined the SABC as an engineer, but I immediately asked...

    • Letebele Masemola Jones
      (pp. 67-74)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and LETEBELE MASEMOLA JONES

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Letebele, thank you for meeting with me. Tell me, what kind of projects have you been working on in recent years, and are they influenced by the political conditions in the country?

      LETEBELE MASEMOLA JONES: I’ve been working in film now for about eight years in South Africa and involved in the development of film through two projects, a drama project called New Directions, which deals not only with filmmakers in South Africa but emerging filmmakers in a couple of other countries on the African continent. I think that film is critical to this [new] environment—a...

    • Ntshaveni wa Luruli
      (pp. 75-83)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and NTSHAVENI WA LURULI

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Ntshaveni, in addition to your writing and directing, you also teach here at the University of Witwatersrand?

      NTSHAVENI WA LURULI: Yes, I am a senior tutor in the School of Arts. I teach and tutor screenwriting for film and television. I tutor the third- and fourth-year students.

      ATM: What current projects are you working on?

      NWL : I have finished my filmThe Wooden Camera[2003]. While I was on sabbatical, I went to Cape Town to make this film, which is a coproduction with French companies and the British Film Council. The National Film and Television...

    • Norman Maake and Tongai Furusa
      (pp. 84-93)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY, NORMAN MAAKE and TONGAI FURUSA

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: I am chatting with Norman Maake, filmmaker, and Tongai Furusa, film editor—two enterprising and up-and-coming young members of the film community here in Jo’burg [Johannesburg]. I want to begin by having each of you talk about your own work and the project you’re currently working on. Norman, would you begin?

      NORMAN MAAKE: I started at film school [the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance (AFDA)], where we made my first film. It was a student project calledHome Sweet Home. I also made a film calledFiFi, which screened locally. But more...

    • Kgafela oa Magogodi
      (pp. 94-102)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and KGAFELA OA MAGOGODI

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Kgafela, you have such a broad portfolio as an artist. You are a filmmaker, a poet, and I just saw the wonderful spokenword theater production you directed with your students. You teach and direct. How do you describe yourself?

      KGAFELA OA MAGOGODI: I can say I’m an attempted filmmaker, but I must carry on as a poet. I have performed my poetry with music. I direct spoken-word theater. I am so interested in these questions that you are raising from the point of view of a scholar. That’s the long and short of it.

      ATM: You also...

    • Teboho Mahlatsi
      (pp. 103-111)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and TEBOHO MAHLATSI

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Teboho, what you have been doing recently in the arenas of scriptwriting and filmmaking?

      TEBOHO MAHLATSI: For the last six years, I’ve mainly been doing television. One of the biggest projects I’ve been involved with is a drama series calledYizo Yizo, which is slang for “This is the real thing.” It’s a series on SABC [the state-owned South African Broadcast Corporation] about high school kids dealing with drugs, guns in schools, and teachers who are not motivated; teachers having relationships with female students, and so forth. This is based on our research and is supported by...

    • Zola Maseko
      (pp. 112-119)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and ZOLA MASEKO

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Your new film,Drum, created quite a buzz at Cannes [Film Festival]. What is the status of the film now?

      ZOLA MASEKO: We are waiting forDrumto premiere as a North American release. [The premier was September 2004 at the Toronto Film Festival.]

      ATM: I can infer a lot about your aesthetic and political concerns from watching your films, but can you talk about your journey into filmmaking?

      ZM: Well, I think that my work speaks for itself. I’d like to think that is the best representation of me. I am a product of exile, born...

    • Khalo Matabane
      (pp. 120-129)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and KHALO MATABANE

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Khalo, tell me about your latest film. The last one that I know about isLove in the Time of Sickness[2001]. I haven’t seen it yet, but I have read the reviews and they are good.

      KHALO MATABANE: That’s actually not the latest. The latest film is calledStory of a Beautiful Country[2004], a feature documentary. It’s completed, and I’ve been screening [it] around. I just finished another fiction project, which I produced myself about displaced persons.

      ATM: What can you tell me about it?

      KM: It’s calledConversations on a Sunday Afternoon[2005], and...

    • Teddy Errol Mattera
      (pp. 130-138)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and TEDDY ERROL MATTERA

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: How did you become interested in filmmaking?

      TEDDY ERROL MATTERA: Interestingly enough, it started when I was about seven years old. I was in primary school and my father worked for theStarnewspaper in Johannesburg. School was out at two o’clock; he finished work at five o’ clock, so he dropped me off at the cinema almost every afternoon for about three years of my life. I developed an interest beyond just what was on the screen, I started [repeating] the dialogue, and I used to get kicked out of the cinema by lovers sitting in...

    • Jyoti Mistry
      (pp. 139-149)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and JYOTI MISTRY

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: I understand that you have been out of the country for an extended period. Will you briefly talk about what led you away, and what led you back?

      JYOTI MISTRY: I have always been interested in filmmaking, not only from a production point of view but my particular concern is the connection between theory and practice. While my undergraduate and graduate studies offered me an incredible foundation in film history and theory, literature, and literary theory, I was unable to pursue my research interest at a master’s level in South Africa at the time. Film practice as...

    • Palesa Letlaka-Nkosi
      (pp. 150-158)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and PALESA LETLAKA-NKOSI

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Palesa, what is your view of what is happening in film and television culture in South Africa?

      PALESA LETLAKA-NKOSI: As you know, I’m back in the academy at the moment to become a historian, and I’m not really working [in film] that much. What I see is as an evaluator at the National Film and Video Foundation [NFVF]. My big interest is in eliminating the barriers to black people working in the [film] industry in South Africa, especially black women. Our industry is very television heavy. I’m worried about the lack of diversity in the stories that...

    • Akin Omotoso
      (pp. 159-165)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and AKIN OMOTOSO

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Akin, I want to get a sense of your feeling about the current state of filmmaking in South Africa and how it has changed in the last ten years of democracy.

      AKIN OMOTOSO: I’m originally from Nigeria. I came to this country about thirteen years ago. I studied drama and acting, but I’ve always been interested in storytelling. To answer the first part of your question, I have to link it to how we madeGod Is African[2003], because that to me illustrates some of the differences and the change taking place. In the current state,...

    • Bhekizizwe Peterson
      (pp. 166-174)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and BHEKIZIZWE PETERSON

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Bheki, thank you so much for meeting with me here in your office in the African Literature Department at Wits [University of Witwatersrand]. I want to begin the interview by asking you about your latest work,Zulu Love Letter[2004], for which you wrote the screenplay. From previous conversations I’ve had, I know that some here are calling this the first true historical film about conditions in this country.

      BHEKIZIZIWE PETERSON: Well, I’ve not heard that. It is really difficult to assess one’s work against what has come [before it] and what other people are doing. I...

    • Dumisani Phakathi
      (pp. 175-182)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and DUMISANI PHAKATHI

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Dumisani, thank you for meeting with me here in your office overlooking the lovely Rosebank Mall. A very nice space. For people who may not know your work, can you tell me about the films that you have done up to this point?

      DUMISANI PHAKATHI: Quite a few. I’ve done films in association with an initiative called New Directions. It’s sponsored by a pay-per-view channel in this country. I’ve directed three films for that particular initiative. My first one is calledAn Old Wives’ Tale. It’s about a white farmer who decides he wants to take a...

    • Bridget Pickering
      (pp. 183-191)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and BRIDGET PICKERING

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Bridgette, my first question is about your own involvement in film, primarily as a producer. How did you get started?

      BRIDGET PICKERING: I studied politics and film at Syracuse University in the U.S., and then I worked at Universal Pictures in New York. I did that for about two or three years, then came back to southern Africa, particularly Namibia—my father is Namibian, and my mother is South African—and worked in Namibia, making films. The films were about governmental issues that promote basic political and social literacy.

      ATM: When was this?

      BP: This was between...

    • Maganthrie Pillay
      (pp. 192-195)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and MAGANTHRIE PILLAY

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: You are a pioneer of sorts. You have discussed the fact that your film34 South[2005] is the first feature-length by a black woman in South Africa. What in your background prepared you for this breakthrough?

      MAGANTHRIE PILLAY: I have been tracking the creative contribution of women and of black women in particular in all artistic fields for many years. I am on a mission trying to encourage women to do their thing! Whether it is as directors of theatre, film, choreographers, artists, or composers. After being a cultural activist, I realized that the only way...

    • Isabelle Rorke and Dumisani (Dumi) Gumbi
      (pp. 196-206)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY, ISABELLE RORKE and DUMISANI (DUMI) GUMBI

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: How long have you been making films and involved in animation?

      ISABELLE RORKE: We founded the company in 2000 but actually got started in 2001.

      ATM: Isabelle and Dumi are partners in a company called Ana. . . .

      DUMISANI (DUMI) GUMBI: An-Amazing Workshop.

      ATM: An-Amazing. That’s a cool name. How did you decide to come together and do this?

      IR: Dumi was involved in live action at another production company and wanted to animate the story of the African hero Shaka Zulu. I was, at the time, an editor for a children’s magazine, and I was...

    • Xoliswa Sithole
      (pp. 207-216)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and XOLISWA SITHOLE

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Xoliswa, I’d like to begin by asking you about your own journey into filmmaking and some of the projects that you have been involved in.

      XOLISWA SITHOLE: I started as an actress inCry Freedom[1987] and then went to work onMandela[1987] with Danny Glover and Alfre Woodard. I also worked onDry White Season[1989]. At the time, I was a doing a master’s degree with honors in English at the University of Zimbabwe. I decided that I wanted to go to the [United] States to do an M.A. I went to Penn State...

    • Motshabi Tyelele
      (pp. 217-224)
      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY and MOTSHABI TYELELE

      AUDREY THOMAS McCLUSKEY: Motshabi, as I told you before, I’m interested in your perspective—as a performance artist who works in several media—film, stage, television, and as a writer—and your observations about the film and artistic environment in South Africa in the last decade.

      MOTSHABI TYELELE: I’m the right person! [Both laugh.]

      ATM: Tell me, how do you describe yourself? A performance artist, an actor, a writer? Or all of the above?

      MT: I think before all the others, I’m a writer. I’m an artist. I’m an actor. I trained as a performer. The writing is only coming...

  6. Partial List of Theatrical and Other Selected Releases in South Africa, 1994–2008
    (pp. 225-228)
  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-230)
  8. Index
    (pp. 231-236)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 237-239)