May 2014

Lights, camera, action in Diepsloot

Written by Nthambeleni Gabara
Aspiring filmmakers in Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg, now have a real shot at making their movie dreams come true, as the first film studio opened its doors in the township recently.

Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile handed over a new, modern film studio to the community of Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg.The Department of Arts and Culture has partnered with Top Crew Home Brew Movies - a 100 per cent blackowned holding company that produces local movies - to make the studio a reality. The department has put R1.5 million into the Top Crew Film training programme, which will give youngsters like Marcia Mankhense a chance to be in show business.

“I want to be an actress because it’s been my dream since childhood. I’ve always wanted to see myself on TV. I’m thankful to government for giving us this chance and believing in us,” she said.

Shandukani Mashatana is equally passionate about wowing audiences and dreams of performing, saying he wants to be “the best actor and comedian”.

Mankhense and Mashatana are two of 70 young people, who received training through the Top Crew Film training programme. They will continue to make movies as part of the programme.

This group of young filmmakers is not the only one standing at the shore of a sea of big, dazzling dreams - a fact that the department is awake to. With this in mind, the training programme will also be hosted in other provinces.

Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile said the training programme, which helps communities get involved in the lucrative R5 billion a year film industry, will also contribute to the generation of local content for use on community television stations.

The studio will help the world to see Diepsloot through a different lens.

“Diepsloot should no longer be seen as a notorious area where children are raped and murdered, but as a model of a society that is producing actors and actresses, who will be making South Africa’s film industry vibrant.

“With the opening of this studio, gone are the days where people would not dare to visit this area… You must produce the best actors so that people will always flock to the township in their numbers,” the Minister said, while handing over the studio to the community.

The studio is located at the settlement’s Youth Community Centre.

True story

The minister urged residents to use the film studio to produce movies that tell authentic South African stories.

“The world is hungry to hear our stories; stories of a nation that has overcome adversity; stories of a resilient people; stories of reconciliation and stories of how together we are building this nation on the foundation laid by giants such as the founding father of our nation, Nelson Mandela.

“We are providing them with access to resources and skills to create their own movies and tell their own stories in the languages of their choice. We are providing them with an opportunity to narrate their individual and community experiences from their own perspectives through the medium of film,” said Minister Mashatile.

Growing the local film industry

Minister Mashatile also committed to create opportunities for the local film industry to be showcased on major world stages such as the Cannes Film Festival and the Durban International Film Festival.

“There is nothing stopping us from taking films made here in Diepsloot, at this studio, to Cannes. We say this because South African talent, including talent from Diepsloot, can match the best in the world.”

Equally important to the process of growing the local film industry, is nurturing a love of movies in communities. The Minister has a plan on how the department and filmmakers will achieve this.

“Our audience development initiatives include efforts to bring back the old culture of bioscopes in our communities,” he said. He described the establishment of the film studio in Diepsloot as a worthy investment in young people and the future of the arts in the country. It is also a vote of confidence in the talented youth of Diepsloot by government.

Member of the mayoral committee for environment and infrastructure in the City of Johannesburg, Chris Vondo, said: “What is key for me is the negative image of this community … but all that is going to change because when actors in the community get exposed at national and international level, film producers will come to the settlement to search for talent.”

Support for the studio is in line with the department’s Mzansi Golden Economy Strategy, which seeks to promote arts and culture, contribute to skills development and create sustainable livelihoods

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