Bokamoso - A Battle for a Bright Future marks Mandela Day with US screening
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Pretoria - A South African documentary that made its debut on Soweto TV last week will be screened in the US tomorrow to mark Mandela Day.
Created by Kenny-D Mdluli and titled Bokamoso – A Battle for a Bright Future, the documentary was an effort to make people aware of the struggles faced by the youth today.
It was inspired by Bokamoso Life Centre, which is described by Mdluli as a great case study which attracts the most destitute youth looking for opportunities and facing a bleak future.
“In 2007 I was just another kid in Winterveldt, without education or a dream. A friend told me about Bokamoso so I went and I liked it. I enjoyed mingling with my peers, debating social issues, dreaming together.
“Bokamoso funded my studies later, and I started dreaming of the day I will be a professional storyteller. I have made so many good friends at Bokamoso and we continue to help each other grow and face difficult times together.
“When I went to produce the documentary last year, I also invited the alumni and put together a movement so we can start giving back to the community and the centre.”
Mdluli studied at PC Training and Business College, where he obtained a diploma in information technology in 2010, funded by Bokamoso. This helped him to get a job at a bank, in the payment distribution department, for debt counsellors.
He used those years to buy film equipment and keep the film-making dream alive. He went on to supply Mzansi Magic with feature films in that period. Most of these films were shot at Bokamoso and around Winterveldt.
His documentary explores how difficult it is to excel academically when you exist in an impoverished society.
“The young people couldn’t achieve outstanding results in their matric and didn’t qualify for the NFSAS or bursaries; so they come to Bokamoso where they could get scholarships in any field or opportunities in the arts,” he said.
“We follow young people who are smart, talented and capable as they try their best to build a future they most desire through an unconventional option, being the Bokamoso Life Centre.”
Mdluli was born in Winterveldt to a pastor. He was one of five children.
“So we were a family of seven. Not having money for tertiary, I joined Bokamoso Life Centre in Winterveldt and fell in love with storytelling. Then I started writing stage plays and formed a drama group in the community.
“Soon after that I started to appreciate the potency of films; their ability to live forever and the vast channels of distribution.
“My first attempt at making a documentary was in 2009 when we were in the US for a cultural exchange programme through Bokamoso Life Centre. Although this wasn’t good for television, it gave me the encouragement I needed. Some of the clips shot in 2009 were featured on my latest documentary.
“I’d shot numerous documentary series intended for social media distribution when I worked with Checkpoint in 2017, as a producer.
“In that particular episode we were exposing a rogue debt counsellor who placed people under debt counselling without their consent. The rogue debt counsellor was shut down by the National Credit Regulator as a result of the exposé.”
The idea of the documentary was inspired by the fact that Mdluli is one of the young people who benefited from this youth centre.
“Coming from a township such as Winterveldt, I committed myself to making films that deal with productivity in the youth; the struggles of building a brighter future, the options we have, and the organisations that are trying to help the youth.
“We have an unemployment crisis and I don’t believe it’s the duty of the government alone to solve the problem, it affects every South African, so it is we the people who must bring the change. Change is good, no matter how small.”
Mdluli started working on the documentary last year after “realising that Covid-19 was not going away”.
“I decided to contact the centre and find out how they were affected. I heard from the manager, Tom
Ledwaba, that the centre was affected in ways we wouldn’t imagine; they’d have to close, which compromised the youth who depend on it for daily meals and other essentials.
“That’s when I proposed the documentary. This was approved immediately. I usually work with a small team as an independent film-maker, so I made a few calls and we started production within two weeks.
“I spent some time getting to know the facilitators, the young people at the centre and their parents. I was affected emotionally in the process.
“Poverty has been a killer disease in Africa, and continues to affect us in more ways.
“I realised while producing this documentary that in our townships the family structure has been demolished; children are raised by single parents, step-parents, or their parents are barely present as they have to be away due to work commitments.
“Therefore they (young people) don’t get a fair chance of developing under ideal parental supervision.
“When we finished in January this year, my team was transformed, we came out as different people, with a better understanding of the society we live in.”
He explained that Bokamoso Life Centre had a fund-raising partner in the US.
“They organised the trip and performances during the annual cultural exchange experience, which normally happens in January. Due to Covid-19 the youth from Bokamoso couldn’t travel this year.
“Looking at the success of the documentary, it made sense to use the film as part of this year’s fund-raising. Without funding, the youth won’t go to school next year and the centre could close.”
The screening will be open to the whole country in the US, hosted
Mdluli has shot four feature films so far. His first was titled Snakes and Ladders, produced in 2014 for Mzansi Magic.
Another, Stuck – Soutpan Road, won an award for the best screenplay at the African Emerging Filmmakers Awards 2018.
In 2019 he produced another documentary, about Khwezi, a young entrepreneur who was in car accident, fought for his life and is in a wheelchair, yet still chasing his dream.
Mdluli’s advice to others wanting to venture into the industry is: “Take a phone, an old camera, or any other tool and start shooting. Just start and learn through experience.
“Film-making is 90% application, 10% theory. Most of my peers abandoned their dreams because they waited for education or funding and it never came.
“You need to find friends who can perform, friends who want to get into the industry, and work with them.
“Make a name for yourself. That’s how you become successful in this industry. Also, invest in yourself, buy the equipment you need, especially if you are in it for the long haul.”