Lights, camera, action in Diepsloot

26 March 2014

Aspiring filmmakers in densely populated Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg, now have a real shot at making their movie dreams come true, with the opening of the first film studio in the township on Wednesday.

The Department of Arts and Culture has partnered with 100% black-owned holding company Top Crew Home Brew Movies to make the studio a reality.

Speaking at the opening of the studio, which located at the settlement’s Youth Community Centre, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile said it would help the world to see Diepsloot through a different lens.

“Diepsloot should no longer be seen as a notorious area where children are raped and murdered, but as a model of a society that is producing actors and actress, who will be making South Africa’s film industry vibrant,” Mashatile said.

“With the opening of this studio, gone are the days where people would not dare to visit this area … You must produce the best actors so that people will always flock to the township in their numbers.”

He said the studio offered the community access to the resources and skills they needed to tell their own stories in the languages of their choice, and to narrate their individual and community experiences through the medium of film.

The minister urged residents to use the studio to produce movies that told authentic South African stories. “The world is hungry to hear our stories: stories of a nation that has overcome adversity, stories of a resilient people, stories of reconciliation and stories of how together we are building this nation on the foundation laid by giants such … Nelson Mandela.”

Skills training programme

The department has ploughed R1.5-million into a Top Crew Film training programme which will give youngsters, such as resident Marcia Mankhense, a chance to make it in showbiz.

“I want to be an actress because it’s been my dream since childhood,” Mankhense told SAnews. “I’ve always wanted to see myself on TV. I’m thankful to government for giving us this chance and believing in us.”

Shandukani Mashatana is equally passionate about wowing audiences. He beams when he tells SAnews about his dream of performing for the masses, saying he wants to be “the best actor and comedian”.

Mankhense and Mashatana are two of 70 young people who have received training through the Top Crew Film programme, and who will continue to make movies as part of the programme.

Mashatile said the programme would be taken to all other provinces, starting with Mpumalanga and North West, in a bid to get communities to get involved in South Africa’s R5-billion per annum film industry, and to help create local content for community television stations.

Equally important for growing the local industry, he said, was nurturing a love of movies in communities. “Our audience development initiatives include efforts to bring back the old culture of bioscopes in our communities.”

He added that his department was working to create opportunities for the local film industry to be showcased on major platforms such as the Cannes Film Festival and the Durban International Film Festival.

“There is nothing stopping us from taking films made here in Diepsloot, at this studio, to Cannes. We say this because South African talent, including talent from Diepsloot, can match the best in the world.”