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.
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.
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!
Today was a great day starting with an early rise and ending with an evening in Stellenbosch, sharing dinner with some friends. It was lovely. In between we spent the hours of the day with Thapelo, captain of the 2008 Homeless World Cup team. It was so wonderful to catch up with him again and to spend some time together in Cape Town.
The day began in his new home. He’s staying at a place in Woodstock now so he can be closer to the city and to the tutoring he’s getting at the University of Cape Town. An incredibly smart and driven student, he didn’t get as good of scores as he hoped in his final math and science exams due to all his practicing for the Homeless World Cup. He is now spending this year with a tutor, preparing to retake the tests and get the scores he wants in order to ultimately begin studying at a university and pursue a degree in the engineering field.
After visiting his home, we interviewed him in the park in his neighborhood. There was a sports team practicing there and none of us knew exactly who they were but eventually Thapelo realized they were a team from Wits University and their captain was former Bafana Bafana football here, Eric Tinkler. Mr. Tinkler was very gracious as Thapelo introduced himself as the captain of last year’s Homeless World Cup team and Thapelo took his picture with one of his heroes, which was really exciting!
Afterwards, Thapelo, Demetrius and I hopped a cable car to the top of Table Mountain for some beautiful shots on the top of this South African icon. Thapelo told us about the coming of age ritual he will soon go through. It is the Xhosa tradition for him to officially become a man and leave his boyhood behind. There was something picturesque about him explaining leaving his childhood and beginning his new life with all of Cape Town and the Atlantic Ocean to be seen in the distance behind him, open to him.
We are gearing up for tomorrow, the trials for the 2009 keeper (or goalie) for South Africa’s Homeless World Cup team. Rumor has it, most of the guys from last year’s team will be there, Martin will be playing for his place on the 2009 team and the community will be rallying behind all of these guys. Rasta, Sandile and Thapelo are offering their guidance as peer leaders/coaches. I think it should be a pretty fantastic day.
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!