I’ve been back in the US for a week now, but I’ve got a little South African treat for you today.
Sometime back in April, a few days after starting work at the Thalana lab, one of the students came by to show me a DVD he and his brother had made. It was a 50 minute film about life in the local township. We watched it together, and though it was in Zulu he did his best to translate for me on the fly.
I thought it was a very cool little film, and right after watching it, even though I wasn’t sure how I’d pull it off, I offered to add subtitles, and asked if there was any way I could get an English translation of the script. He said his brother could translate it for me, and a week or so later they brought me some 24 handwritten pages along with a DVD copy.
Adding the subtitles was a big job, but I was excited to do it and didn’t want to let the kids down. I spent several days lining them up as best I could. It was slow going entering in all the time stamps and text – it took lots of guesswork and deduction since I didn’t speak the language – but eventually I showed them what I had and they were very happy. They told me they didn’t actually believe that I’d be able to do it. We spent a couple more days going over it together to correct my mistakes.
Here’s the end result:
I think it’s pretty special to have something like this – a film about a disadvantaged area made by the residents themselves. It gives a rare peek into the look and feel of South African township life, and some of the things the kids here are thinking about. I can write my impressions of the place on this blog, but this is their world through their eyes.
Given how often indie film projects fall apart even in the best of circumstances, with the challenges these kids face I’m amazed it got made at all. And by tenth graders, no less. Truly some ambitious and impressive kids.