SA film honoured at disability fest

14 October 2002

“Someone with a disability can be sexy’, says 19-year-old Makhotso, star of the South African documentary Wild on Wheels, which was voted one of the top films on offer at an international festival on disability in Russia.

The film, commissioned by South Africa’s Office on the Status of Disabled Persons and produced by Kagiso Educational Television, was honoured by audience vote and judges’ selection at the International Disability Film Festival in Moscow in September.

The film forms part of People Unlimited, a series of documentaries first screened on Etv last year.

Wild on Wheels tells the story of Makhotso, a 19-year-old from Kimberley who parties hard, loves her dancing, dreams of being a TV presenter, and believes that being sexy is not just about being good-looking. “The way you talk to people . I think it is sexy .The way you laugh, the way you socialise with people . If you do your thing in a sexy way, I find you very sexy.’

Makhotso’s legs were both amputated from below the knee when she was a child, but this does not stop her from dancing – even if her friends have to carry her up a set of stairs to get to a club. “When I’m dancing with my friends, I feel like I’m not in this chair’, she says.

Makhotso rehearsing for a show that integrates dancers with and without disabilities

Wild on Wheels director Alette Schoon comments: “People assume that someone in a wheelchair is sick or in pain, fragile or mentally incapacitated, but they are ordinary, intelligent, people who have dreams and passions like everyone else . There are not many people with disabilities with public profiles, so stereotypes are not challenged. This is why Makhotso wants to be a celebrity with her own television show.

“Makhotso’s personality is perfect for challenging these stereotypes … She is extrovert, funny, sexy – and loves being the centre of attention.’ Schoon plays to this, shooting the film in the style of a funky youth programme, backed by kwaito music, with Makhotso directly addressing the camera as a presenter on her own show.

Makhotso finally gets her break – she is selected to tour the country with a show that integrates dancers with and without disabilities. At rehearsals, in amongst the music, dancers and choreographer, Makhotso moves gracefully in her wheelchair, head back and arms weaving in the air.

“In Kimberly there are many people with disabilities who are not even allowed out of the house”, Makhotso says. “That’s a terrible situation . based on prejudice, superstition, shame, and culture.

“And I think if we’re lucky, then some of the work that we are doing here will begin to plant a seed in people’s mind and their imagination that it is alright to be seen. People who are hidden away will say, “Well , we do not have to be hidden away, there are people on stage performing.’ ‘ reporter