United Nations Association Film Festival
Screenings will take place:
October 22-31, 2010. Showtimes: TBD
In Cape Town, there are two realities. Sixteen years after the end of apartheid, South Africa prepares to
host the FIFA World Cup and the country is ripe with celebration. New hot spots, airports and stadiums were built to welcome travelers from around the world. However, there remains a generation that lives in extreme poverty, with many youth falling into lives of violence, drugs and abuse.
Streetball is a fast paced documentary that tells the stories of South Africa’s 2008 Homeless World Cup team. The Homeless World Cup is an annual soccer tournament that draws teams from over 56 countries—comprised of homeless and the excluded. The SA Squad consists of ex-convicts, former gangsters, orphans and recovering drug addicts that band together to represent their country, proving that no one is beyond redemption. Streetball is a story of hope and of the resilience that dwells within the human spirit. But while these mens’ dreams are simply to have a home and to be recognized as people who need care, often times the realization of those dreams is accompanied by a sobering reality.
Martin Africa grew up in Cape Town and lived on the streets since he was five years old. After spending years in and out of prisons and gangs, Martin found out he had a son and needed to find a way out of a life of drugs and gangsterism. In 2007, he attended trials for South Africa’s Homeless World Cup street soccer team. He was subsequently named captain of the 2008 team.
Thapelo Kalpens grew up as an orphan , living in a youth home. He’s a strong student and wants to attend college but is unsure of how to pay for tuition. He tried out for the Homeless World Cup team in hopes of gaining experiences and connections that would benefit his future. Thapelo made the team and was named vice-captain.
Sandile Mhlongo became an orphan when he was nine years old. He grew up in a children’s shelter but when he turned eighteen, he was sent out to live on his own. With no family or support, he ended up living on the streets. He heard about trials for the Homeless World Cup team and stood out among the competition. Sandile was a top goal scorer for the 2008 Homeless World Cup team.
Petros Nkomo, aka “Rasta,” grew up in Soweto and later moved to Cape Town. He was an orphan at age seven and struggled to find stability for himself on the streets. He spent some time in prison due to petty crimes and while he was there, he played soccer. He became an excellent goal keeper which made him an obvious choice for the 2008 team.
David Abrahams is a community leader, focused on developing youth structures. He founded the Western Cape Street Soccer League in 2006, in preparation for the Homeless World Cup held that year in Cape Town. He has since grown the league into the organization, South African Homeless Street Soccer (SAHSS) and works for the league on a volunteer basis.
Peter Cooksen coached the 2008 Homeless World Cup team. He works full time for organizations in the Atlantis community and volunteered for the South African Homeless Street Soccer League. His coaching provided guidance to the players as they prepared to compete in Australia.
Kgafela oa Magogodi is a Spoken Word Poet and film scholar. He taught at the University of the Witwatersrand and was also a guest lecturer at New York University. He has performed worldwide and was the first recipient of the Steve Biko Fellowship. His work explores the social roles and media representation of Black intellectuals, as well as the significance of maintaining cultural practices to uphold a vibrant civil society.
Araminta de Clermont is a British born photographer who is now based out of Cape Town. Her work explores “rites of passage, and the visual currencies of group identification and formation.” Before Life her second solo show, follows Life After, which was exhibited at Joao Ferreira Gallery, and at ArtSpace, Berlin. Her work features in the UNISA collection, in The Trustman collection, and has been showcased throughout the US and Europe as well as in South Africa.
ETC CREW is the “Cape Town-based, multi-racial, cross-dimensional Hip Hop rap outfit you might’ve already heard of.” Fueled by their own fresh yet energetic, jazzy, head-nodding Hip Hop sound, they are on a mission to fill a cultural and musical gap in the South African music industry. Not content to be followers in the game, they would rather do it differently, making changes on their own terms, armed with the kind of quality beats that speak to your feet and a highly comedic lyrical flow that is completely contagious. ETC Crew is here to re-adjust any kind of attitude that says Hip Hop and rap are strictly for gang bangers.
Faith47 is a Cape Town based graffiti artist and has been adorning the streets of South Africa for over fifteen years. Her work explores the divisions that still exist within South Africa’s communities and seeks to draw attention to the places and people that are often over looked. Her artwork has appeared in galleries across Europe, North and South America as well as throughout Africa.
Jitsvinger (Quintin Goliath) is one of South Africa’s fastest rising Afrikaans vernacular Hip Hop artists. He plays acoustic and electric guitar and successfully launched his debut album, Skeletsleutel, in 2006. He has traveled the country and world, performing at various outdoor and indoor festivals, theaters, clubs, living rooms and even cordoned off streets.
In 2005, Jitsvinger was invited to facilitate a creative writing program at Robben Island. He has performed with poet and author Antjie Krog, and poets Kgafela oa Magododi and Comrade Fatso. He traveled and collaborated with Khoisan praise poet, Jethro Louw, performing traditional cultural music in the Taiwanese cities of Tainan and Taipei. In mid-2008, he traveled to Switzerland as part of the inter-continental Rogue State of Mind project where he performed and recorded with fellow artists from Switzerland and South Africa. Jitsvinger has been working on his follow-up album due for release in 2009.
Kgafela oa Magogodi is a Spoken Word Poet, Spoken Word Theater director and film scholar. He has taught at the University of the Witwatersrand School of the Arts as a lecturer in African Cinema, Oral Performance and Rap/Dub Poetry Studies and has also been a guest lecturer at New York University. He directs and produces original Spoken Word Theater and his productions have included “Itchy City,” “Warsoil,” “Bread,” and “Blood.”
Kgafela has written several screenplays and produced his feature length film, I Mic What I Like, in 2006. He has performed worldwide and was the first recipient of the Steve Biko Fellowship. His work explores the social roles and media representation of Black intellectuals, as well as the significance of maintaining cultural practices to uphold a vibrant civil society.
The Rudimentals are an eight-piece ska/reggae band that have been described as a “South African Institution.” The band released its first CD, “More Fire,” in October, 2003 and the hit song “Noh TV” won a National Bronze Stone award for best music video. In 2004, the band was voted “Best Reggae and Ska Band” in South Africa, by nationally popular Blunt Magazine.
In 2006, the band released their second CD entitled, “Set It Proper.” The CD fuses Ska, Reggae, Dub, Dancehall, Rock, African Mbaquanga and Jazz into what is now known as Afro-Ska. Sponsors include Cape Audio College, Township Guitars, Moskow Clothing and Critik Shoes. In 2007, the Band was signed for their first CD, “More Fire”, with Moonskaworld UK.
Gwen Ansell of Business Day claimed, “(UjU’s) compositions are memorable and the playing rather better than it needs to be. Whatever this new kind of popular music ends up being called, UjU does it exceedingly well.”
Today’s incarnation of the band was crystallized at a twelve-hour jam session in early March, 2004. Led by spiritual leader of the band, Ntuthu Ndlovu (poet and vocals), UjU has a sound that is distinctly their own, mixing strong Mbaqanga rhythms with modern Jazz and Hip Hop. UjU – Zulu for Honey – writes with a heightened consciousness, informed by critical social, economic and political issues. They aim to bring about the entirely new and distinctly South African sound that represents their generation. As they say, “Nothing cheesy here but always self-referential and ironic.”
Streetball was funded by South African PBO (Public Benefit Organization) and United States 501(c)3 public charity From Us With Love (FUWL). With little to no experience in the film industry, but a passion to share the triumphs and tragedies of the 2008/2009 South African Homeless World Cup Teams, Streetball began production in July of 2008.
FUWL asked filmmaker, Demetrius Wren to join them in South Africa in February of 2008 to photograph and make short documentary videos of their ongoing projects. While spending time with the South African Homeless Street Soccer League, President, David Abrahams suggested that Wren make a full length documentary film about street soccer. Wren shared Abrahams request with FUWL Founder, Michael Smith and Smith agreed. Within a few weeks, FUWL approved funding for Streetball.
Streetball was made by a crew of only two. Demetrius Wren and Christina Ghubril shot, wrote, interviewed, directed, edited, photographed, sound mixed, researched, graphic designed, and composed the elements that make up the film under the direction of Executive Producer, Michael Smith, who also founded FUWL in April of 2007.
Thanks to modern technology, two 25 year olds with a lot of passion could complete a film in their living room. Streetball was edited, sound designed and graphic designed on a Mac, using all Mac programs.
FUWL’s strong relationships with organizations involved with the street soccer league, gave Wren and Ghubril full access to the staff and players. Wren and Ghubril would often leave the cameras behind and spend time getting to know the players and the Cape Town community. The friendships that formed made it comfortable to hold conversational interviews and hang out at ease while a camera was around
Without a full crew or imposing equipment, Wren and Ghubril gained access into places and stories that are not often open to “outsiders” or media. Also, without Martin Africa, much of Streetball would not exist. He took Wren and Ghubril into locations that housed local gangs and to where many street people lived. Once, Ghubril watched a man twirl a gun at them while filming in the Quarry but he put it down when he saw Martin with the crew. On Long Street, Martin was told by some kids that if he wasn’t with the crew, they would’ve stolen the cameras.
Ghubril wanted to highlight South African musicians and artists in the film, to give context to the vibrant post-apartheid culture and generation. Wren was inspired by the “Take-Away Videos” — one-shot music videos of bands performing live in their community locations. The two combined their ideas and brought South African musicians into the fabric of the film.
While finishing her undergrad in Johannesburg, Ghubril met Wandile Molebetsi of UjU, and would frequent UjU’s concerts each week. Kgafela oa Magogodi was her professor at NYU and at the University of the Witwatersrand. On her spring break in Cape Town, Ghubril visited the District 6 museum where she was moved by Faith47’s artwork. Jitsvinger, the Rudimentals and ETC Crew, were found on myspace. They all generously donated their time, music and artwork to From Us With Love for Streetball. All proceeds from the film and soundtrack will go to fund From Us With Love’s ongoing projects to bring about hope in South Africa.
“South Africa has more than 1,000 children that are being orphaned daily with a current estimate of 1 million children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS. This will increase to approximately 2 million by 2010 and in Africa, to over 40 million.” (ABB South Africa)
From Us With Love (FUWL) became aware of street soccer and the Homeless World Cup, an international event for the sport, during the summer of 2007 in South Africa. They learned that entrance can’t be gained into the lives of people who live on the streets as easily with knowledge and wisdom as with a soccer ball. FUWL wanted to share the excitement of the sport and the triumphs and tragedies of those who play it. From Us With Love proudly presents Streetball, a documentary film following the 2008/2009 South African Homeless World Cup teams.
FUWL is a registered 501 c3 Public Charity in the United States and a registered Public Benefit Organization (PBO) in South Africa. FUWL works closely with other organizations that serve the needs of impoverished South Africans in order to provide the most effective aid possible.
One of the projects FUWL sponsors is South Africa’s Homeless World Cup street soccer league. FUWL believed the stories of the players in the league were significant and believed that sharing them through a documentary is a powerful way to spread the word about homelessness and the plight of many South African youth.
FUWL recognizes the basic worth of every person – that we are all more alike than we are different, and that we all deserve care and support. FUWL operates out of the belief that we are part of a very interconnected world, and improving viability for communities anywhere strengthens human viability everywhere. Also, by focusing on improving education, health services, good nutrition, cultural arts, sports and voluntourism opportunities, FUWL invests in a brighter future for humanity.
The players returned home to South Africa this week. While there were some bumps along the way, they are now all home, safe and sound. Soon after they landed, they were invited to Parliament and were recognized by Patricia de Lille, the leader of the Independent Democrats political party. Also, they were welcomed by Kgalema Motlanthe who served as President of South Africa between September 25, 2008 and May 9, 2009, completing the second term of Thabo Mbeki. He currently serves as Deputy President of South Africa and of the African National Congress.
These leaders spoke of how proud they were of the team for representing South Africa in Milan and for bringing home the Milan Cup, which Martin Afrika presented to Deputy President Motlanthe while at Parliament.
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
South Africa is officially the winner of the 2009 Milan Cup! This is the third division trophy and is a great victory for SA. They played a fantastic final game against Malawi. The crowds were chanting for South Africa, waving their flag–some of their friends from other teams even wore SA’s warm up suits in support of South Africa. They played a focused and solid game and won 9-1. It was a day to celebrate in Milan, completed by the first place Homeless World Cup victory, won by the Ukraine team.
As the players head back to South Africa, the weight of unknown futures is heavy in the air. Some go home to organizations or family members yet others head back unsure of what will come next. The return from this amazing event is often challenging. In a world and economy that is difficult for all, these men are no exception. With trophy in hand and a deeper sense of self, they return to their home country to seek new opportunities for their futures.
I am daily overwhelmed and inspired by their resilient and hopeful spirits. As we head back to the States, their presence will surely be missed.
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
South Africa has come back with a force! Winning today against the USA and Romania, South Africa is going on to compete for the third division cup, playing against Malawi! Tomorrow’s a big day….
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
The last few days have been quite eventful including a visit from British Formula 1 racer, Lewis Hamilton, an excursion to San Siro Stadium and a day at the pool. Asanda was injured and after a visit to the emergency room, realized he won’t be able to play for the rest of the tournament.
Today the players entered the field ready to enjoy themselves against Germany and took the game! At one point, the team was left with only 2 players on the field when Martin was taken out of the game. Also, the goal keeper was pulled out for negative behavior and Ephraim was put in as a substitute. With Asanda injured, Martin out, and an unpracticed goal keeper, they managed to focus in and score enough to win in the end! Colin and Thulisile scored a series of impressive goals and Ephraim and Rushaad defended well against their opponent. Tomorrow they play Romania to compete for one of the lower level trophies.
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
Due to the outcome of several other team’s games yesterday, the South African team is still in the running for the first place Homeless World Cup trophy! Check back soon to see how they place!!!
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
Today was a challenging day on the field. Both the games against Kazakhstan and Hungary were lost. Kazakhstan doesn’t qualify to compete in the tournament so that game counts automatically as a win. However, the game against Hungary was a tough one. The teams were neck and neck up until the end. Both played a very strong game and the final score was 9-8 in favor of Hungary.
The team was a bit bummed and bruised (Martin got knocked pretty hard in the face…) but even despite their losses, they quickly worked to support and encourage each other. We went out for gelato and their smiles and laughs had returned. Similar to last year, I believe this moment of loss was the moment where the significance of the Homeless World Cup was realized. Experiencing new things, realizing their value in the world and gaining inspiration and hope for their futures have become more significant than taking home the cup to South Africa.
The team also visited the South African Consulate in Milan and met Dr. Nomvuyo Nokwi, the Console Generale. She shared her story of migration from South Africa and encouraged the players to pursue opportunities for their futures.
We then spoke to Thapelo, last year’s team captain who helped coach this year’s team. He remembers experiencing these feelings of loss and encourages the team to keep their heads up and fully enjoy the rest of their time in Milan.
And….they’re still in high ranking for the second division tournament. Tomorrow they play Ghana and continue on to the second round semi-finals. Wish ‘em luck!
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
The South African team showed up this morning ready to play hard. After losing their first match yesterday, they need to win 3 matches in order to remain in the running for the cup. They were neck and neck with Wales during their first game but ultimately won 6-4. They went on to win their next game with Japan by a whopping 17 to 1. They’re ready tomorrow to play Kazakhstan and Hungary, hopefully to move on to the semi-finals.
Afterwards, Martin shared that their success on the pitch is important in revealing the team’s worth to their homeland. While they are forgotten on the streets, if South Africa would recognize all they have to offer, their country would be a better place. Drugs, he explained, are enticing on the streets because they offer a boost of confidence and a rush of adrenaline but playing and winning a game offers a buzz that’s even greater than drugs. If people on the streets were given opportunities like this more often, he thinks no one would turn to drugs and then confidently stated that he will never turn to drugs again. For one of the first times, Martin said he believed his life was worth something.
These are the stories we are honored to witness and look forward to sharing fully with the release of Streetball in 2010. Martin is a daily example of the power of hope. It has been amazing watching his and his teammates’ stories unfold.
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
I am so excited to say that it is time for the 2009 Homeless World Cup! The South African team is preparing to travel next week and to represent their country in Milan, Italy.
It is bound to be another inspiring tournament, held in a bustling city, buzzing with the energies of players from all over the globe. One of the most exciting things for us this year is that Martin Afrika has gotten his ID and will soon travel to Milan to live out this part of his dream. We go to gather final footage of Martin with his team in Italy and then will hurry back to the US to insert the footage into the first cut of the film that will be sent off to the Sundance Film Festival.
It’s an exciting season all around. Stay tuned for regular updates on the team and their journeys at this year’s Homeless World Cup!
Blog and photos by Christina Ghubril
The 2009 trials for the upcoming Homeless World Cup are now complete. At a camp outside of Cape Town, roughly 25 guys from Cape Town and Knysna came together to compete for the 8 slots in the 2009 team. This year, the Homeless World Cup will take place in Milan, Italy in September.
Physical training began early in the morning and then trial matches began mid-afternoon. Along the beach, it was a picturesque event with Table Mountain also towering in the distance!
So far, it looks like Martin Afrika will be on the 2009 team. It remains uncertain whether or not he will be able to obtain legal identification papers allowing him to apply for his passport. His spirits seemed high at the trials and we are all hoping that everything will line up for him this year.
As far as filming goes, our time here in South Africa is almost complete. A few more days before returning to New York will give us our final footage from this leg of the journey and we look forward to piecing together all the amazing elements of this story to complete the film. It promises to be an exciting season ahead for South African Homeless Street Soccer as well as for StreetBall, the film. Stay tuned—many more exciting stories to come!
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 official. Martin Africa will not be able to go to the Homeless World Cup. At least not this year, not with this team. He still has not been able to get official papers and there is no longer time enough to process the paperwork necessary to get his visa, even if an ID were to miraculously show up for him tomorrow. When he was informed that he would not be able to go, he said that he had come to that conclusion a week before on his own and has made peace with it.
He has, however, continued to train with the team and to support them, taking his responsibility as team captain seriously. He is encouraging the rest of the players and will also choose another member of the team to take over for him, as captain, in his absence. Everyone wants Martin to succeed and to hold onto the hope he has found over the last few months. I am hoping the weeks while the boys are in Australia are not too difficult for him.
Over the weekend, the team went on a training retreat outside of Cape Town. They were up with the dawn every day, running and training on the beach at 5AM and following a rigorous schedule from there. The energy and excitement is building as Friday morning’s flight to Australia comes closer and closer. Some of them have expressed fears that they may find out last minute that they also will not be able to go. Some are in the middle of exams for school at the same time as they are training and preparing to leave. Some are experiencing health problems that are inhibiting their abilities to play to their fullest capacity. But all are fighting hard and have their eyes set on that cup, wanting to represent South Africa well and with pride.
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.