News / Africa

    South Africans Make Own Movies

     A group watches their movie at the Bioscope Independent Cinema after making a film at the Home Movie Factory in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Peter Cox/VOA)
    A group watches their movie at the Bioscope Independent Cinema after making a film at the Home Movie Factory in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Peter Cox/VOA)
    Interested in making your own movie, but don’t have the money for a camera, or costumes or a set?  Don’t worry.  Johannesburg’s Home Movie Factory has you covered. 

    In a former car body repair warehouse outside downtown Johannesburg, a group of workers from a non-profit foundation in Soweto are making a movie.  The movie, which they call The Shebeen Queen, deals with issues of drugs, sex and AIDS.

    The film will likely never get to the Cannes Film Festival, let alone your local theater.  But that's not exactly the point of the exercise.

    The Home Movie Factory is the brainchild of Academy Award winning director Michel Gondry, who has made films such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep and The Green Hornet.

    Concept

    The concept was developed to allow the public to come in and make movies on a pre-designed set, and get the experience of going through the filmmaking process.

    Gondry's idea is based on his movie Be Kind Rewind, in which two movie store clerks remake Hollywood blockbusters on a shoestring budget.  He's taken this idea to Paris, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Rotterdam and Moscow.

    "There are a couple of philosophies which is why it’s such a good project," he said. "It’s to give people who don't have creativity as their everyday work the chance to, without all the industrial process, to understand the experience and joy of filmmaking.

    This is Arya Lalloo, the creative director for the Home Movie Project.

    "Also, part of the idea is to find within the groups, within the team set up you are able to interact with strangers or people you know in a different kind of way," said Lalloo.

    Visitors are put in groups of about 15.  They spend the first 45 minutes democratically narrowing down the genre and theme of their movie.  The next 45 minutes are spent coming up with a plot, filming locations, actors, costumes and hammering out other details.

    Finally, the crew heads onto the set - a large empty warehouse space divided into different film backdrops  - a bedroom, kitchen, church, courthouse, doctor’s office, two Ford Cortinas, a Minibus and a township home. The filming begins.

    "People really come together in the creative process and all those social barriers, and inhibitions, when you are in a creative moment seem to kind of dissolve.  The process itself is very interesting," said Lalloo.

    The owners of the Bioscope Theater in Johannesburg, Darryl Els and Russell Grant, convinced Gondry to allow them to bring the idea to Johannesburg - the first city in Africa to have the project.

    "This city is yearning for something different," said Els. "It’s been living.  People have been going to shopping malls and carbon copy nightclubs.  It’s really a matter of Johannesburg offering these new things.  So I think it was important that something like this came to Joburg.”

    Popularity of project

    Important?  Maybe. But definitely popular. The project, which began in early September, has already produced 150 movies, and has been booked solid.

    When different groups combine to make a movie, the results are always interesting, says Vusi Thwala a guide at the factory.  He's noticed some trends.

    "White groups tend to focus on horror and sci-fi, while black groups come in and do gangs and drugs," said Thwala. "When you combine them together, you get a whole lot of challenges.  You get sci-fi and township action tied together.  The type of energy you get there is actually hilarious - it’s something you didn't think you'd see."

    To make the project work, Els and Russell raised funds locally and received fundraising help from the French Institute. Because of the fundraising, there is no cost to anyone who comes in to make a film.

    So far things have been running smoothly, but Els says they did decide to make one change early on.

    "Do we still have the gun? We took the guns away from the prop room. [Cause there was always cops and robbers]. That has not stopped the violent narrative from taking place. Generally people tend to die at the end of every movie... There is a thing where you can't lead the stories too much," said the guide.

    At the end of filming, each group walks over to the Bioscope Independent Cinema to watch their film.

    Tabiso Selepe, who was with the group from Soweto, says this was a unique experience.

    "It was like scary at times.  But acting is acting.  It's fun.  It's entertaining.  I feel like Nicholas Cage, eh.  We are like superstars today, like an action movie," said Selepe.

    The Home Movie Factory is open through the end of November. You can reserve your spot at the Johannesburg Home Movie Factory Facebook page.

    You May Like

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Brexit's Impact on Russia Stirs Concern

    Some analysts see Brexit aiding Putin's plans to destabilize European politics; others note that an economically unstable Europe is not in Moscow's interests

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora