United Nations Association Film Festival
Screenings will take place:
October 22-31, 2010. Showtimes: TBD
As our days in South Africa hint of ending soon, we are trying to capture all the missing pieces of this story. Find all the voices that still need to be heard, get all the shots that are needed for a solid film. It’s been a great few days for gathering some of the final elements of this project.
Yesterday we left early to meet with Jitsvinger (translation: The Dope One), a Cape Town based hip hop artist who has gained international acclaim for his music. Jits keeps all of his lyrics in his native tongue, Afrikaans. Told that he needed to rap in English if he ever wanted to make it past his own community, he took it as a challenge to prove everyone wrong and be the first internationally recognized Afrikaans MC. He has agreed to be one of the artists that appears in the film, adding to the texture and cultural landscape of this story on South Africa’s 2008 Homeless World Cup team.
Also important to Jits is being a positive role model in his community. After spending the day with Jits on his cousin’s fruit selling route, we followed him to his performance at the District 6 Museum, for a Freedom Day celebration (Freedom Day remembers South Africa’s first non-racial, democratic elections in 1994). Along the fruit route, we learned about different communities and about the fruit selling industry from the folks who sell the “third-tier” fruit. The “first-tier” is packaged and sent overseas to Europe, “second-tier” is packaged and sent to local grocery stores and “third-tier” fruit is gathered by local vendors and taken into the townships to sell to the community stands and shops there. The people who sell this fruit take pride in their work and in the knowledge that they are bringing healthy food into their communities and that they are able to provide for their families without resorting to theft, drug dealing or other desperate means.
In between fruit stands and concerts we stopped by the University of Cape Town to interview Dr. Cathy Ward, graduate professor of Psychology. Dr. Ward’s research is focused on issues of substance abuse and violence in local communities, particularly the ways in which it affects the lives of local youth. She was a wealth of knowledge and insight and her input in the film is greatly appreciated.
Today we visited the trials for the 2009 Homeless World Cup. Sandile was there, helping to coach the incoming players. We caught up and shot an interview with him, hearing how life has been since he got back from Australia. Full of ups and downs, he says. It has been a mixed journey for Sandile but he is keeping his head up and his goals set. I hold a great deal of hope for his story.
It’s hard to believe this part of our journey is almost complete. In two days, Demetrius and I will join South Africa’s 2008 Homeless World Cup team on a flight to Melbourne, Australia, for the long awaited international competetion. The air around us is full of energy, excitement and also some fears. We are all dreaming of Melbourne, looking her up on the net, talking about what she could be like. It’s almost time to find out.
Knowing we only have a few days left in Cape Town has kept Demetrius and I fairly busy. Over the last few days we spent time with a local graffitti writer and artist, Faith47, learning more about her processes and voice in the community. We visited The Oasis, another organization that uses street soccer to reach local youth–particulary at risk individuals–and builds relationships through the game in order to then mentor and assist the players throughout their life development. We spent a morning with another community leader who also uses street soccer to reach homeless guys and interviewed several members of his team about their experiences, first hand, working with these guys.
The stories are the same: street soccer is the cheapest and most effective way to reach street kids. All you need is a ball and the kids will come. Once the kids have gotten to know the leaders a bit, they will begin to open up. Once they know they are loved, many of them no longer want to use drugs or live on the streets. I know it sounds much simpler than it is but the bottom line story we are hearing from all sides is that these guys need to know they are loved and need to be heard in order to begin on a healthier path. Street soccer is a way to begin to build relationships as well as to offer a physical outlet, goals the players can work towards and reasons why they are needed, as well. The team needs each other. The younger players need the older ones to act as big brothers/mentors. Once they are hooked into a community, their leaders can help them find other opportunities for work, creative outlets, education, sometimes counseling. But it all begins with the game.
During several interviews, we were also taken on a tour of some of the townships in Cape Town that are less “famous” than Khayalitcha. They don’t end up on the news so much or in people’s debates and conversations but the stories there are just as real and challenging. There are no schools whatsoever in Happy Valley and so the children have to ride sometimes two hours and/or walk long distances to get to school in neighboring townships. We were there on a Monday afternoon and there were kids of all ages, everywhere, not in school. We also visited a newer settlement that was a squatter’s town but has grown to be a full community. Theyhave organized their own local leaders who are internally recognized. There are 2 outside pumps for water access and several outhouses and that is this community’s main access to water and toilets. There are no schools, but there is a recently opened creche for the babies. Many people who live here were once homeless but have come together and made a community for themselves, have homes and some level of stability and protection here.
In the afternoon, we went to Robben Island for a tour of the prison Nelson Mandela lived in for 18 years (he spent a total of 27 years in prison, but 18 of them were on Robben Island). It is a very stark place. Now, a historical site and tourist attraction. Many of the tour guides were once prisoners there, themselves. I am blown away by the courage it would take to be back there, guiding tourists through your old cell every day. Most of the prisoners on Robben Island were political prisoners who were against apartheid and arrested and tortured for fighting for their freedom. Many of them were very young men who were torn away from their families and loved ones, tortured and discrimated against and shipped off to an island off the coast of Cape Town. It was a prison for Colored and Black men only. There were separate facilities around the country for women and white men. There is something both haunting and hopeful about seeing a gift shop on a former such prison. I do not really know how to process it.
We have one more interview today and spend tomorrow with the team and gathering last bits of footage before packing up and leaving for Australia. There are many stories ahead of us still, I know. May the journeys continue!
Yesterday, Demetrius and I spent the morning and early afternoon at The Ark, a community for individuals dealing with homelessness and/or addictions. It is a fenced in community in the township of Khayalitcha that has been around since the mid 80s and now has a full school, provides housing for families, men, women and children, offers rehabilitation programs, meals for the students, athletic and creative opportunities, as well as social gatherings. It is entirely volunteer led by individuals who have come through the programs and community there. Riaan and Thapelo, two players on the Homeless World Cup team live at The Ark.
In the afternoon, we went to film the ETC Crew in their studio and captured three of their tracks. Demetrius and I are excited to use this music and footage to support the rest of the story. I’d tell you how, but then you’d have nothing to look forward to….
This morning we got up and spent some time at the team’s practice. They are still down one man due to sickness, and Rasta, their keeper, has injured one of his thumbs and is a bit slower than usual. It is not looking promising that Martin will be able to go to Australia. The closer the Homeless World Cup gets, the less likely it is that the pieces will come together in time.
Tonight, we headed to Zula on Long Street for the ETC Crew’s show. The house was packed–we were on the second floor of the building and the floors were shaking as the crowd jumped and danced along with the crew. I can’t lie, there were moments where my mind drifted to pictures of the floor caving in and what kind of stories they’d tell my mother when the news hit. It was nothing but good energy, however, and the guys put on a great show. They have a solid following who are full of energy and excitement.
All in all, it’s been a great few days and we have a packed week coming up, as well. Stay tuned….
This morning we went to MyLife to meet Martin Afrika. There are still many complications concerning his legal identity, ID card and passport. Without proof that he exists and is a South African citizen, he cannot get employment, purchase a car, purchase or rent his own home or travel. The hospital he was born in shows that he was born on the same day on two different years and cannot verify his birth. The school that he grew up in burnt down and lost all their records. Many members of his family have passed away or are no longer in communication with him. He has been in the Department of Home Affairs office every day for the last two and a half months trying to sort this situation out.
After venturing to the Department of Home Affairs with him, Martin took us to the MyLife house where he lives. After visiting his current home, Martin took us to several of the places he lived for over 15 years on the streets. He left his home to live on the streets when he was ten years old due to abuse in his home. Over the last 20 years, he has also spent several in prison before trying to make positive changes to his life.
The first place he took us was in the side of a mountain. It’s known as the Quarry. He took us on a detailed tour of the area, where he slept, where he made fires to burn the rubber off of copper wires in order to sell the metal, and introduced us to several of the people he lived with and made money with. There is no way Demetrius and I would’ve been able to be there, as Americans, with huge cameras on our own. At one point, while Demetrius was closely filming Martin, I turned around and saw a young man looking at us and twirling a gun in his hand.
Afterwards, we went to an unfinished bridge that Martin used to sleep under. Well, more like sleep inside. There were holes in the top of the bridge and twenty or so people could climb into these holes and sleep between the upper and lower levels of concrete on this bridge. On one side, it is connected to the highway. On the other, it just ends and people apparently have fallen off or been thrown off of the end. Because people can only enter from one side, Martin said it was safer than many places but it was dangerous because if anyone did come, there was no where to run to.
The third place he took us was the first place he ever lived when he moved to the streets at age 10. It was under a highway overpass and clearly people are still staying there. He lived there for many years and told us the stories of transitioning from one side of the bridge to the other, why the first side was better and safer because it was harder to get to and it was close to a fence that opens to train tracks, which was a good place to jump and hide. Behind the bridge was an area that he used to hang his clothes to dry and he would go to chill out when he was stressed, if he was having problems with his girlfriend, etc.
Finally, we took Martin back to his house, where he has lived for the last 2-3 months. Once he joined the soccer league, he moved off the streets. He believes soccer changed his life and the volunteers at MyLife claim they’ve never seen such a swift success story before. Once he got onto the team, he stopped using drugs all together–after having used them since he was 13. He captains a team of younger homeless guys, is in charge of maintaining the food in his house and is clearly a leader among his peers. I can’t imagine what circumstances were like for him on the streets for so many years and from such a young age. The community is now rallying around him, hoping these changes last in his life and that he is able to move forward in the positive ways he hopes to. Getting a proper ID and affirmation that he does exist, I think, will be a helpful step in that direction.
Today was an absolutely beautiful day. The sun shone brightly over Cape Town. Demetrius and I took advantage of the weather in order to get some establishing shots of the city and took a helicopter ride over the coast to get some aerial shots. It was stunning. The water was a cool, bluish-green, splashing onto the rocks below. Table Mountain and the 12 Apostles mountain range shot up into the perfect sky, surrounded by puffy, white clouds while we flew in a helicopter over it all.
After roaming the city, cameras in tow, we met up with The Rudimentals, a Capetonian ska/reggae/dancehall band, to work out the details of our collaboration for the soundtrack and to get an interview with a few of their members. We’re excited to have them on board as a part of this project!
Upon arrival in Cape Town we met up with David Abrahams, who runs the Western Cape Street Soccer League, and joined him as he traveled to Atlantis, a community where Vuyo, one of his young players lives, to get some paperwork signed that will allow him to play in the Homeless World Cup. Atlantis is a Colored community and without any traffic is about an hour outside of Cape Town. Most of the residents of Atlantis work in Cape Town and commute on community-devised public transportation every day.
David is the volunteer president for the Western Cape Street Soccer League. He has a full time job yet spends full time hours also making sure these boys have everything they need to get to the Homeless World Cup, pursues them when they go missing, and works with local NGOs who provide support to the players outside of practice and games. After running to Atlantis, we stopped by MyLife, a local NGO, to check out paperwork on the prison records of two of the team’s key players.
Martin Afrika is the captain of the team. He has been living on the streets since he was a little boy and is now almost 30. He’s been in and out of jail several times and is vigorously trying to move his life into a healthy place. Martin is full of smiles and openness to share details of his life story. He shared with us that he struggles to find a place to call home because when he goes back into his old community, they are afraid of him, based on his past behaviors, and he is afraid to get lost in that lifestyle again. He has begun to form a family with his fellow teammates and speaks fondly of them and the bond they are beginning to form as brothers.
There is currently no found record that Martin exists. Right now, he is unsure of whether or not he will be able to make it to Melbourne because he has no birth certificate, no ID card, no proof of when he was born or where he is from. The prison system has not been helpful thus far in providing any records of his stays there and so the hunt is on for his prison records, in hopes that this will prove that he indeed does exist and can get a plane ticket to Melbourne. Martin has made it clear that this soccer team, this trip to Melbourne to play in the Homeless World Cup, are his main life sources right now. This game, this community, are what is keeping him away from drugs and alcohol, what have helped him get into a home, find a roommate and a purpose.
The next few weeks will continue to be packed from dawn until dusk. We have interviews lined up, more shoots and meetings with artists, days spent with individual members of the soccer team and, of course, the journey to Melbourne for the Homeless World Cup. There are many hoops that must be jumped through and details that must be completed for the 8 members of the soccer team to all make it on a flight and to the events in Australia. They are all full of excitement and hope and their community is rallying around them. We are anxiously waiting to see how the rest of the story unfolds.
Today we visited the University of the Witwatersrand to interview professor, Greg Homann on youth in South Africa. Afterwards, Uju came in for an interview. It was helpful to hear various perspectives on this new generation in South Africa, the post-post-Apartheid generation and how they are defining themselves. We will soon be meeting with the players of the 2008 Homeless World Cup team from South Africa and they are all between the ages of 16 and 30, certainly falling into this generation. We are looking forward to beginning the next leg of the journey.
Tomorrow? Off to Cape Town.
Today held the stories of a gorgeous rooftop video shoot overlooking Johannesburg, capturing the magic of one of South Africa’s fastest growing bands. If you don’t know Uju, check them out, as I’m sure they will be bursting into the world at large in the next few years. Their new album is in process and is even tighter than their last project.
Check out our collaboration above and have a beautiful day!
Today was full of grit and magic. We got up with the sun and traveled to Newtown to snag a few more early morning shots around the Afrika Cultural Centre before filming Kgafela’s videos.
The shoot was fantastic. The location has so many options of rooms, hidden areas and magical gardens that we could’ve shot twelve videos there. We ended up getting in three and as the day progressed, so did the community we were working with. Kgafela had organized friends, mentors, mentees, a wild dog, his wife and sons and musicians and by the end of the day, we had quite the crew on set. It was a great day.
Demetrius and I got up with the sun yesterday to get some establishing shots of Newtown.
We met up with world renowned performance poet, Kgafela, as well as several members from the band Uju. We will be filming videos with all of them for the documentary and connected to discuss details of their upcoming shoots.
Kgafela took us to the spot where he wants to film his videos. It is a maze of wide open space, raw, rough details. As part of the Africa Cultural Center it is a historic space that will soon be torn down and remodeled, so we’re excited to capture it before the “upgrade.” Tomorrow’s shoot should be a fantastic first!