Some behind-the-scenes shots taken during the filming of MTV doccie, The People VS The People. Supplied
Some behind-the-scenes shots taken during the filming of MTV doccie, The People VS The People. Supplied

‘The People VS The People’: Frank expressions of blackness

By Masego Panyane Time of article published Aug 2, 2019

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Good things come in threes. This is the best way to describe the "The People VS" series.

Lebogang Rasethaba has returned with the hard-hitting and poignant The People VS The People. This docu-series offers a no-holds-barred conversation about blackness tackled by people from all walks of life who imagine what blackness looks like outside of it being an item to tick on a form or document.

The episode, which runs for just over an hour, retains much of the structure Rasethaba introduced with the first two documentaries: "The People VS The Rainbow Nation"   and "The People VS Patriarchy", respectively.

The people taking part in the discussions are divided into groups where a specific topic is discussed. The film also features profile-style interviews with Material Don Dada, the Material Culture group and Zodwa Wabantu.

The film’s producer Carol Kioko said one of the important factors in selecting participants was to find people who had experienced the subject matter on a personal level.

“What we definitely did in this one was to find people of colour whom we liked, who had engaged with the content personally and who were willing to be honest during the process and allow us to make it (the film) together,” Kioko said.

Interestingly, the latest instalment could easily have turned into a bashing session for whiteness, but it wasn’t. What it does do, is allow black people to have an honest conversation about their lives and their challenges, in an inherently anti-black and anti-poor world.

For the makers, Kioko said the idea was to have a conversation that didn’t include comparisons to the past or that black people still lived among white people, but to rather create a space where a conversation could happen without interference.

“This was very intentional. Coming off of the past two documentaries (we noted) that it’s very hard to have a conversation about being black without us comparing it to our past or the fact that we still live around white people.

”We were kind of just trying to see if it’s possible for us to exist in a space where we don’t have to have a conversation about white people.

“That’s why the intro ends with everyone saying: ‘white, white, white’ because we were actually just saying: ‘enough’. We do not want to hear who we are through the mirror of a white person, or their way of telling us who we are.

“We just want to see who we are on our terms, call other black people, and see if they agree,” she said.

The film also features people of various sexual orientations and gender identities. There’s a transgender man, K.Dollahz, and viewers get to see his transition within his existence as a person of colour.

I felt this was particularly important because, historically, cases of homophobia, transphobia and other phobias were driven by a lack of understanding of people’s sexual orientations. “Choosing to include K.Dollahz and his transgender journey was very intentional because he has had very specific experiences of how society treats him.

“We wanted to make sure that when we say we are talking about the stories of black people, we are not just talking about the stories of black straight people,” she said.

The film is not populated by famous people or even popular black Twitterati. That was something Kioko said worked towards what the producers wanted to achieve with the film, creating spaces and sparking conversations among ordinary black young people without the pressures of social awareness.

The documentary has a little something for everyone but, more importantly, it displays that everyone’s individual experience matters.

On the channel investing in creating such content, Monde Twala, the vice-president for youth, music and BET for Viacom International Media Networks Africa (VIMN Africa), said: “Collaborating with young filmmakers and producers to tell an authentic African narrative is a triumph for MTV Africa as we are a brand that is about engaging the youth in a robust conversation while delivering innovative content in our market.

“As a brand, we are continuously tapping into youth culture and global movements that inspire positive action by providing relevant content that resonates and entertains young people across the continent.”

"The People VS The People" airs on MTV Channel 130 on Saturday at 8.30pm.

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