The latest out of the MTV Africa stable is a jarring documentary about patriarchy and its hold on South Africans. The sequel to The People vs the Rainbow Nation, The People vs Patriarchy is a one hour and 15-minute conversation that is sub-divided to try and get the viewer engaging on this social pandemic.
Directed by Lebogang Rasethaba, who was also responsible for the first documentary, the film is shot on location in Johannesburg and Cape Town, engaging people of different backgrounds on what they think patriarchy is, how it can be addressed, the call out culture, the #menaretrash phenomenon and attempting to chart some sort of way forward.
The discussants are in set ups of focus groups, with the exception of some one-on-one interviews that are done with specific people, among whom are a rape survivor, a reformed abuser, a woman basher and members of academia to provide the academic arc of the film. One of the participants, the woman basher, makes the case for giving women a “spanking” in order to toe the line.
He says: “Never hesitate to discipline your wives you see, a good spanking won’t kill them.”
And if that doesn’t move you, then an elderly, motherly woman appears in the film making the case for why women should stay in abusive relationships, because it’s God’s will. She speaks with such conviction and genuineness it is impossible to feel any other emotion but sadness. In the film’s opening and closing minutes, the film endeavours to provide contact details for people who may feel triggered.
Please note the video contains strong language**
In hearing some of the opinions that are raised, something will move you in some shape or form, and it may even get you riled up. According to producer Jasmyn Asvat, if that happens, and ultimately leads to conversations happening among ordinary people, then they will have achieved what they set out to do.
There were challenges, Asvat said. The biggest one being that people were not open to talking.
“When we started putting this film together, there was a balance that need to be observed. First, we have a broadcaster with a specific market and we need to appease this market. The next level was: ‘who do we go to within townships and communities?’
“So, we went to an Indian community, an Indian community hall. And no one pitched for the meeting. Because everyone’s too scared to talk,” she says.
“With representation, we tried to make sure that everyone was covered but it was so hard. People don’t want to speak about this, and those that do, seem ‘woke’. I just think, aren’t we lucky that ‘woke’ is the in thing? Aren’t we lucky that we find ourselves in a space where people think it’s cool to be mindful, thoughtful and caring?”
One of the other critiques that she has come to be aware of, is that the film contains “too many” Black feminist voices.
“People have said, ‘ahhh, but you guys have so many Black voices’ and I was like, ‘don’t we need a global Black feminist voice to be speaking?’ We’ve had the white feminist movement for years, and all of a sudden we say there’s too many Black voices. No! We need that. We need Black women to be speaking to this,” she explains.
Asvat has said that she is open to whatever criticism that may come their way: “You know what, I will take it. Because ultimately we’ve told a story as best as we could in a three month span to put it together. And I think we’ve done a bloody good job to outline the issues that are pertinent now, that we need to discuss.”
Seeing as the film is a product of the MTV network, it’ll obviously be available to pay-tv customers first. But Monde Twala, vice president for BET Youth and Music for Viacom International Networks (VIMN) Africa, says they were open to discussions with anyone that wants to show the film.
Their hope is also that, like The People vs the Rainbow Nation that ended up being sought by universities to be included in their syllabi, this would be the case with this film. And that free-to-air channels would also be open to picking it up.
The People vs Patriarchy is, to its advantage, an aesthetically beautiful film. This works to also encourage its poignant conversations.
It is important to remember that a global system of subjugation and its impact on some 55-million South Africans cannot be solved in a couple of focus groups and a film, but The People vs Patriarchy is bound to be the beginning of some very important conversations and social movements.
The People vs Patriarchy will air on November 29 on MTV (DStv channel 130), at 9.15pm during the global initiative 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence.