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.
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
Yesterday was another significant day here in Cape Town. South African Homeless Street Soccer held their trials for a keeper for the 2009 Homeless World Cup team. All of the players who are in the finals were there playing against each other and Thapelo, Rasta and the coaches surrounded the courts offering guidance and support. I wasn’t here for last year’s trials and it was impressive to me, seeing the players try out, knowing how much stronger and sharper they will become in the next few months.
Martin Afrika was there and it was wonderful to see him again. He is physically strong and sharp and clearly a leader on the court. He looks like he has lost a bit of weight and has some sadness in him where there used to be pure adrenaline and excitement. He got kicked out of MyLife, he says for bringing his girlfriend over, and spent a few weeks back on the street and had everything he owned stolen from him. The depression of his circumstances led him back to drugs, none of which he was happy about. Since he is trying out for the 2009
team, he is back living at MyLife but doesn’t feel like he is as loved or accepted by his community as he once did. Due to his appearance and tattoos he has gathered that there are people who do not want to be seen with him, since he looks like a gangster. He has had troubles with some of his old relationships following him, particularly when he leaves his current community and, for example, goes to visit his son. He was chased by a rival gang the last time he dropped his son off and was scared for his life. I admire more than ever his heart and resolve to try and stay positive and hopeful and work towards health in his life. I know it has not been easy.
Also, he is still working to get his ID. He can’t get a job without it and there continues to be hurdle after hurdle for him. Most recently, he has been told that his finger prints look like someone from Madagascar and so he is trying now to deal with it from this angle. He says if it weren’t for football he would be back on the streets and have given up. Football keeps him going. It is the one thing every day that he enjoys and is inspired by and can fight for.
Rasta was also there. Rasta has had a very different experience than Martin and still lives at MyLife, feeling positive about his life. He gets odd jobs from time to time and is in training to be a coach. He is in good spirits and claims that the Homeless World Cup changed his life completely. His face is all smiles and we have heard from the other coaches and from Thapelo that Rasta is doing a great job coaching the incoming goalies. He takes his job seriously and seems to take great pleasure in it.
Rasta also spoke of his concerns for Sandile, in particular, who is no longer living at MyLife, apparently for having his girlfriend over, as well. It sounds like Sandile is living back at the quarry, but he is harder to find these days. The coaches are also bringing him on to help lead the 2009 team and are hoping that will encourage him and offer a deeper sense of purpose again.
I knew this wouldn’t be an easy “and they all lived happily ever after” story but it is still hard to see people that we have grown to love struggling after a season that was so full of hope. I am thankful that there is a good mix of guys who have found encouragement in the last few months to run alongside of those who are having a bit of a difficult time. They still think of each other as brothers, as a team, and work as best as they can to support and lift each other up , which is a beautiful thing to see. I am still quite hopeful for all of them. I know these things take time.
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.
We have now been gathering stories for two weeks. Stories of artists and athletes, young people who have lived or are living on the streets, educators, community developers and the like. One of the most interesting things so far has been to see the similar topics that are addressed by each community and to hear their perspectives coming from sometimes very different points of view. Ideas of what South Africa is today, what has transitioned since the end of apartheid and what has remained, who can be trusted or seen as “safe” have all been addressed in one way or another and are pertinent issues to each community.
Yesterday, Demetrius and I spent some time at a local NGO, MyLife, where several of the players of the Western Cape Street Soccer League are connected and have found rehabilitation. Martin and Rasta are both a part of MyLife and have opportunities for projects and work lined up for them upon their return from Australia.
Several of the guys from the team were at MyLife when we visited. Many of them are coming down with physical ailments of one sort or another. Sandile was laid out on the couch and was taken to the hospital after we left. Martin’s eyes were swollen, almost shut. Linzy shared several stories with us of past students that came down with sometimes severe ailments before opportunities to leave the country for the first time. Her thought was that it is most likely adrenaline and nerve based in anticipation of such a big transition and that once they leave, they will be fine.
Traveling the world is a big transition for anyone. For these players, the idea of traveling to Australia and playing on a team that represents their country as a whole is daunting, at times. Yet, in the midst of day jobs, families, organizations to run, lives to live, the leaders of these organizations are running around town, finding students to complete paperwork, drive them to practice, organize practice games, provide meals, take the players to hospitals and prisons and where they need to go in order to get all their ducks in a row to be a part of this team and to travel the world. The village is gathering round and I believe these guys are on the brink of something special.