The Growth Of South African Films Is Relative To Its Patriarchal Society

Its clear that measures previously used to improve the film industry simply excluded females from the director's chair and favoured their male counterparts.

27/03/2017 06:24 SAST | Updated 27/03/2017 09:20 SAST
Gallo Images/ Sunday Times/ Simphiwe Nkwali

More than twenty years into the supposed "rainbow nation" and the implementation of new measures to develop the film realm across all cultures, the South African film industry, said to be on the rise, still does not include black female feature film directors – ask your neighbour to name five! It is crystal clear that measures previously put in place to improve the film industry simply excluded females from the director's chair and favoured their male counterparts, as evidenced in global cinemas at large.

Seminal South African film scholars have criticised the current state of their film industry; yet they overlook or fail to mention roles played by females in production, if anything it will be about the actor. Keyan Tomaseli, for example, has published widely and written extensively about the South African cinema industry; going as far as considering the dynamics in production or the process of making the films that construct the industry. He further describes it as an environment that is dominated by white males with notable racial transformation taking place.

And Martin Botha has also written about the South African cinema, suggesting that the post-apartheid era has seen transformation as more black directors are putting the country on the world map for telling authentic South Africans stories (Botha, 2010). In his texts, Botha mentions black South African film directors that make it to dinner table talks, Ntshavheni Wa Luruli, for example. Botha further notes that there has been an impressive growth of the work produced than we have witnessed before.

Moreover, an important body, the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) released an annual report suggesting the increase in production of local films, with specific reference to the years 2009 to 2012, this supports Botha's remarks yet it remains evident that although there are recent developments, stats have not changed tremendously, a lot of groundwork is still lacking. Conversely, Tomaseli notes the possible racial transformation, while Botha highlights the increase in production and inclusion of black directors, however, none of them speak of the black female director who has made a picture for history books, this is problematic and needs to change. The films mentioned in the NFVF report are directed by both white and black males, however no female directors exist on the list – even with the introduction of women empowerment and gender equality in South Africa.

Thus, the current state of the South African film industry is uninspiring, and if anything, deters young females who aspire to bring their stories to life. Change, of course, will not happen overnight but if representation matters at all, perhaps it is time we have a black female that's fully supported for a blockbuster piece, something more than broadcast documentaries or short slates. One can only hope that it is going to happen soon, with women producing pieces that represent them as they see themselves in those lenses! On a more personal note, I can name a number of black female directors but not one whose film I've watched at the box office. Oh what it would feel like for young girls to run to the cinemas to watch films envisioned by women they recognised!