For me, filmmaking is an ongoing personal journey: an interrogation of my own integrity and authenticity. My motivator is the exploration of the human condition and the pursuit of truth, particularly in the deep layers of the subconscious. What drives us, forms us, defines us? What are we most scared of? How do our actions (both spoken and silent) keep us trapped in suffering? We are our most beautiful when we are vulnerable – can I, as director, create an environment where it is safe enough for you to fully bare your soul?
I have been telling stories using all sorts of media all my life. I performed throughout my school career but the closest I ever came to being an actress was a 3-year part time stint as a professional clown in my twenties. It was then – safely masked with whiteface make-up – that I really began to study people…what makes them happy, sad, intrigued, repulsed, bored? What really captures the viewer’s imagination when you have nothing more than your body as a tool?
I had studied politics and photography at University. Our country was burning at the time and I felt strongly moved to be part of change. It was a dark and wild time and the camera became an effective weapon and shield for me. I submerged myself in the search for truth through the lens, allowing beauty to eventually seduce me away from the all too harsh political reality of the time.
In the mid to late 80’s, I started to play with audio visual as a medium – making 35mm images ‘move’ and interact to music and narration on huge screens in both commercial and expressionist environments. I loved it. I learnt then some of the power of the conversation that emerges when two images are juxtaposed next to each other. The editor (the manipulator?) was awakened. I worked within one of the great advertising agencies at the time, under the mentorship of one of South Africa’s greatest ad men – Brian Searle-Tripp of Ogilvy Mather, Rightford, Searle-Tripp and Makin.
I fell pregnant while working at the agency. It was a huge turning point in my life. It wasn’t a planned pregnancy and I wasn’t married. I knew that having a child was going to mean putting my dreams on the back burner for a time. But it was also a privilege and a responsibility that I was excited to embrace.
By the late 90’s, freedom had come to our country and I had kept my daughter and myself alive by founding and running a graphic design company based in Johannesburg – The Red Iron Rooster. But the push to immerse myself in the sort of story telling I had always been aiming for – filmmaking – became unavoidable. In 1997 I formed my own production company and became fully involved with documentary filmmaking.
Since then, I have made many documentaries on a variety of subjects – my first major documentary being ‘Cinderella of the Cape Flats’ – a 58 minute film about women in the clothing factories of Cape Town that has been shown at festivals all over the world. It had its international premiere as the closing film at the Vision Du Reel festival in Switzerland in 2004 and was first screened on SABC1 on the 19th of July 2004. The film has found a home in University libraries around the world as a sociological reference document.
In 2009 the call came that shifted my focus and my direction once again. I was invited to join the crew of South African ‘Survivor’ as a content director. I had been fascinated by reality television so I jumped at the chance. Since then, I have been working more and more in reality television. It still intrigues me. I know that the minute we pick up a camera, ‘reality’ ceases to be real and becomes a construct but I am totally committed to finding ways to ensure that ‘reality’ stays as authentic as possible. For me, it is a field where the human spirit can reveal itself – if it feels safe enough to stay real and not be manipulated by the production machine.
Although predominantly a director, I have experience in most fields including cinematography, scriptwriting and editing. I collaborate with and produce content for South African and international production houses and corporate companies. I also produce content on a pro-bona basis for non-profit organisations. TSiBA University is one such organisation I have been documenting and producing content for since 2006.
In essence, I am an organic storyteller, filmmaker, creative thinker, problem solver and an adventurer. I like to be in control when letting go and letting be is the key. I am naturally curious and both empathic and compassionate with the ability to hear on levels beyond the voice so have gained a reputation as a ‘people whisperer’.
In recent years I have found myself working frequently in food television and it has helped to feed a great personal love of the kitchen and the joy of cooking for loved ones. Cooking shows are fast-paced, demanding and at times quite brutal, but they are also a great deal of fun to be a part of and offer the incredible capacity for personal growth for all involved.
I am currently in production on a feature documentary; Tears of the Mbashe River. It is a story about the exhumation of the remains of 12 hanged men, and the return of their “missing” bones to their families, 53 years later. Told by two different perspectives – science on the one hand in the form of the forensic anthropologists responsible for the exhumation and by representatives of two generations of families who were present at the time, on the other.
The film follows the journey of the survivors from their remote village to the city for the actual exhumation of the bones and then the journey back for the ceremonial handing back of the remains. It offers a haunting and poetic historical document that stimulates the current conversation around displacement, belonging and violence – both systemic and individual – and it’s impact on communities and families. It raises questions around the importance for all human beings of knowing where their ancestors are laid to rest. It is also a window into the experience of loss, of stigma, and the suffering of those left behind.