‘How can an 11-year-old know things like this?’
If a picture tells a thousand words then short film Miseducation explains very well what it feels like for a child to go to school on the Cape Flats.
The four minute short documentary was shot in 2012 by Nadine Cloete as part of the Why Poverty project, initiated and produced by Steps International (a non-profit organisation that combines film, new media and outreach to get people talking about big issues).
Filmmaker Don Edkins, for Steps, points out that film is a good way to give people a better understanding of the newspaper stories that continually report how innocent people are caught up in violence on the Cape Flats. He is specifically referencing the story of 6-year-old Sadiqah Lippert who was killed by a stray bullet in Athlone last week.
The Why Poverty series was originally commissioned to tell stories that expose the structural causes of poverty and inequality around the world and how this affects people.
The feature films were broadcast by 70 national broadcasters and are now, together with the short films, housed on the whypoverty.net website.
When the short films were first released the project let the New York Times Op-Docs editor choose the best ones they wanted to screen through their forum and Cloete’s Miseducation was chosen alongside award-winning Russian filmmaker Viktor Kossakovsky’s Lullaby. (Op-Docs is The New York Times editorial department’s online forum for short documentaries).
When Cloete shot the film she knew she wanted to tell a story of what children on the Cape Flats learn outside of formal channels, the education they need to navigate the streets to get to school.
While she initially interviewed a number of children she narrowed it down to two and once the editing started, Kelina’s story was chosen: “She was bit more poetic, in the end.
“Kelina surprised me with what she said. She was 11 years old at the time and the whole film was a lesson.
“How can an 11-year-old child be knowing things like these?
“Children shouldn’t know the names of gangs and where they hang out and yet we accept it.
“That was highly problematic. What happened to childhood? What struck me, interviewing Kelina and the other children, for them this was the norm,” she said.
Cloete did the interview first, which provides the film’s soundtrack and then filmed the images that illustrate what Kelina talks about.
This is the second short film Cloete has shot called Miseducation. The first, completed in 2005, was a fictional story about gangsterism in schools which won a prize at the Youth for Human Rights International Film Festival in Los Angeles.
“These days we read and hear that not even schools are safe anymore and some of them close down because of violence. I think the film was successful because it is told from the mouth of a child and sometimes we forget those voices,” said Cloete.
Some of the research she did for the short film is available on her Youtube channel, including a clip of another girl pointing out a place on a street where a person was shot.
“Yes, children can exaggerate, but this is what they’re exaggerating about, violence, not fairytale stories,” said Cloete.