Power couple Siya and Rachel Kolisi are trying their hand at film making.
The Springbok rugby captain and global ambassador for the UN Spotlight Initiative, together with his wife Rachel teamed up to executive produce “We Are Dying Here” – a stage play-turned-short film focusing on gender-based violence (GBV).
The original story belongs to South African writer, performer and director Shiphokazi Jonas, who performed it during the lockdown last year.
It was also mentioned in TimeOut New York as one of the best productions to stream during the lockdown.
In the show, Jonas took a hard look at GBV and performed alongside the co-writers: spoken-word artist Hope Netshivhambe and singer Babalwa Makwetu.
The three women respond to the prevalence of the violent culture of harassment, abuse, rape and femicide.
All three reprise their roles in the new film.
Rachel said that just like the title, it gets straight to the point.
“One of the most beautiful results of this film is that it causes people to stop, think and more so encourages men and women to have conversations,” she said.
Siya added that there are many things that need to be unpacked in this film.
“There is a lot that can be explained. The narrative of the film also teaches you that gender-based violence doesn’t start with the violence, but the whole thought process. The film encompasses a lot of educational learnings for us as men,” said Siya.
The film chronicles the journey of three soldiers forced to survive a war that they did not choose. In this war against women’s bodies, they attempt to find solace by telling their stories under the constant watch of a relentless enemy.
“We Are Dying Here” is an intimate reflection on the impact of violence, harassment, abuse, rape and femicide on everyday life.
While the film never depicts any violence, the psychological and emotional trauma on these soldiers is evident.
It is a necessary insight into the experience of living in South Africa where names of missing or murdered women trend frequently.
Jonas said: “I am tired of feeling helpless and afraid as a woman in South Africa. Before work began on creating ’We Are Dying Here’, I felt as if art has no real place in terms of true change in the world; a film is not going to change murderous intent.
“But a fellow writer reminded me that our work gives us language and helps us to articulate ourselves and that’s what we hope ’We Are Dying Here’ will elicit.”
Director Shane Vermooten said: “’We Are Dying Here’ is a unique combination of spoken word poetry, theatre and film, and this distinctive combination helps deliver a powerful and poignant message in a visually rich way, which I haven’t seen on screen before.”
The short film will have its global premiere at the Pan African Film Festival running from Sunday, February 28 to March 14.