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Life stories come alive on screen

Filmmaker Thato Maluleke. Photo: Supplied

Filmmaker Thato Maluleke. Photo: Supplied

Published Nov 24, 2021


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STORYTELLING is an essential part of society. It magnifies the issues faced by the people on the ground and in their communities.

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Bertha House, an activism hub supported by human rights organisation Bertha Foundation, has joined forces with another hub Postane (based in Istanbul, Turkey) to bring these stories (films designed for mobile phone users) to life through the MobiFest, a film festival with a difference.

Filmmaker Thato Maluleke. Photo: Supplied

Filmmakers from Turkey, Johannesburg and Cape Town are set to share their stories at the festival.

The week-long international festival, that will run until this coming Friday in Cape Town, is staged virtually for its global audience.

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The Bertha Spaces MobiFest (BSMF) is an annual showcase of films that explore how visual storytelling and mobile technology can be used together to advance social change.

“Through collaborations like BSMF, we want to create opportunities for creativity, and solidarity. We know that impact is maximised when people from different disciplines, fields and geographies meet around a common solution,” said director of Bertha House, Ncedisa Nkonyeni.

“We are happy to see that both the overall concept and this year’s theme of Bertha Spaces MobiFest are in line with our vision to strengthen solidarity through the provision of spaces and programmes for activists in our cities,” said Yasar Adanali, director of Postane.

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Under this year’s theme of “Solidarity Spaces,” South African stories will sit alongside Turkish stories to make up the films that will be screened at both physical spaces and online spaces between November 19 - 26, 2021.

The MobiFest also includes panel discussions for the filmmakers to discuss their work and lessons learnt from creating their films; masterclasses and guest screenings that resonate with the theme of Solidarity Spaces, from some of the mentors the filmmakers were paired with.

The mentors include writer and producer Karabo Lediga as well as film director and photographer Jenna Bass.

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Thato Maluleke is part of the nine South African filmmakers who are presenting their films. His film is set in Vogue Nights, a nightclub in Newtown, Joburg, known as a safe space for the LGBT+ community.

“Because the theme this year was ‘Solidarity Spaces’ I decided to go for Vogue Nights Jozi which is basically a space where queer people can come together and find community, survival and acceptance. It’s a space where they celebrate their sexuality through music, fashion and more,” he said.

And when Maluleke went to Vogue Nights for the first time, he thought to himself, it would be nice to capture a glimpse of what this feeling could be like for someone who is queer and grew up in a volatile household.

“My main character in the film, Xolani experiences animosity from his family after coming out, specifically his mom. He then searches for queer spaces on the internet and Vogue Nights comes on and he goes into this fantasy that takes him out of his reality to put him into this whimsical world of acceptance, beauty, colour, light and affirmation.

“And that affirmation that we as queer people get from Vogue Nights is life-giving because we get to experience each other and ourselves without fear. So my film is a love letter to anyone looking for a sense of belonging and the importance of being in a space like that for anyone,” he said.

Shameelah Khan’s film is set in Joburg, and sits at the intersection of gender, race and religion and is the story about the role of women in the mosque space.

“In some Islamic communities in South Africa, women are not allowed in mosques. This is not all of them because there are mosques that do allow women in but there is still a large number of mosques in Johannesburg, Durban, PE that don’t allow women in. But it’s not just South Africa, it’s across the world.

“In doing my research I learned that London also has the same problem where women are not allowed to enter the mosques. So my film follows the lives of Islamic women who reflect how women have been excluded from prayer spaces,” she said.

The other seven filmmakers from across the country are: Mzikhona Mgedle, Rae Human, Adriaan Madikisa, Khanya Qongqo, Ian Mangenga, Emma Tollman and Elelwani Netshifhire.

The films produced for MobiFest will be distributed widely to promote the people, the transformative message and the spaces profiled in the films.

The festival screenings and events will take place at Postane (Istanbul, Turkey) and Bertha House (Cape Town, South Africa) and will be broadcast live to a global audience online.

Sunday Independent