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.


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

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs