United Nations Association Film Festival
Screenings will take place:
October 22-31, 2010. Showtimes: TBD
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.
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!