Using solar energy for power, the Sunshine Cinema screens short films of uplifting and useful content, targeting youth and rural communities, to promote self-empowerment by sharing practical ways to improve life.
Sunshine Cinema produces a range of “how to” videos and facilitates workshops, as well as makes narrative-based short films that address social issues.
Sydelle Willow Smith, the co-founder of Sunshine Cinema, told Redbull Amaphiko, “a collaborative platform for social entrepreneurs who want to change their corner of the world”: “We’re a collaboration between the skills development collective, The Shift, and the documentary filmmakers, Makhulu.”
The group chose to use solar power, she said, because as filmmakers and design innovators they had worked in a variety of environments where electricity was not prevalent, and because renewable is sustainable. “We use solar power because we’re passionate about sustainable forms of energy.”
RURAL AND DISENFRANCHISED BENEFIT
The filmmakers decided to take their productions to the rural and disenfranchised people who were marginalised and did not get the opportunity to view their work.
“As filmmakers from privileged backgrounds,” Smith said, “we felt we were often making films in areas where the people we were filming wouldn’t get a chance to see the work. This was problematic so we wanted to find ways to bring films to communities across the digital divide.
“We screen community-tailored documentary content in the hope of promoting skills development, dialogues and enabling communities to become their own ‘engines of development.'”
The screenings differ but in general they start with warm-up games to connect with the audience, before the viewers are shown the solar-powered cinema kit. “We then screen a selection of short films, including documentaries and our DIY tutorial clips for the day.”
RECEPTION OF FILMS
And the movies are well-received. “[The reception is] fantastic, everyone loves a cinema,” said Smith. “In the last two years we’ve visited diverse communities, youth, farmworkers and rural women’s groups, and all have responded well. We ran a record-breaking crowd-funding campaign on Thundafund and we’ve been featured on local and international media platforms.”
Smith singles out the screening workshop in the township of Langa, in Cape Town. “One of the most impactful screening workshops we’ve hosted was in Langa, where we showed a video on how to make seats out of discarded tyres. It was a fantastic experience.
“After our tyre seat workshop we screened a local animation film called Khumba. This meant the kids could roll their seats into the makeshift cinema we had created and watch their favourite cartoon.”
CHALLENGES AND PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
Sunshine Cinema started as a worthy idea but snowballed into a demanding start-up enterprise, according to Smith.
“This rapid growth for Sunshine Cinema has been driven by a small team, which we would love to grow so that we can scale our impact too. Accessing early stage funding is never easy, and most of Sunshine Cinema’s development to date has been funded by the founding partners.”
The Sunshine Cinema team will be going on a roadshow in August. “We’re partnering with other organisations to test the reception of the cinema beyond South Africa’s borders. We’ll be travelling from Cape Town to Kenya conducting research about our approach. We’re also working on making our content easily accessible to a wider audience.”