Filmmaker brings Frances Baard to life

Written by Neo Bodumela

Determined, strong and resilient. These are words that have been used to describe struggle stalwart Frances Baard and her relentless fight against the racist apartheid government.

South African filmmaker Mercia Wechoemang (33) – who hails from Kimberley, the same town as Baard – has produced a documentary about Baard’s life showing her resilience on the big screen.

A filmmaker for the past eight years, Wechoemang says the documentary, titled The Spirit, is her best work yet.

Wechoemang says the seed for the documentary was planted when she saw Baard’s statue in Kimberley’s city centre.Filmmaker Mercia Wechoemang thanks the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition for bringing her film to life.

“I was passing there where her statue is and I wondered who this woman is. We know that there is a district [municipality in the Northern Cape] that is named after her, but who is she? Why is she being celebrated and do people know her story?

“It is important to know our heroes because this is our heritage and it will always be part of us. If you don’t know your heritage, you don’t know who you are. Heritage is part of our culture,” she says.

Wechoemang says the path to bringing her idea to life was not easy, with the documentary taking more than five years to complete due to financial challenges. However, she received funding from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition’s (DTIC) South African Emerging Black Filmmakers Incentive, which enabled her to complete the project.

“I submitted a proposal to the DTIC and they came on board to assist me to complete the production. I don’t think I would have been able to complete it without them,” Wechoemang says.

“The entertainment industry as a whole is male-dominated and women need to occupy that space. I am not saying that men are not good filmmakers, but if more women come into the industry, maybe we will have a different narrative because a man cannot tell a female story the way a woman can,” she says.

Did you know?

The Government Communication and Information System's head office is on Frances Baard street in Pretoria.

For more information about the DTIC South African Emerging Black Filmmakers Incentive, visit http://www.thedtic.gov.za/financial-and-non-financial-support/incentives...