Nothing small about Oscar’s Short Films

With the 2016 Oscars behind us and the attention fixed on the Best Picture competitors, many of the brilliant short films nominated seem to slip by unnoticed.

Each of these films nominated for the Live Action Short Films category of the Oscars encapsulates a unique social issue or political within its narrative driven by the extraordinary lives of characters that manages to keep you captivated despite being less than a quarter of the length of your average film.

avia maria 2

 

1. Ava Maria – 6/10

The lives of Nuns in the West Bank who are in the middle of a vow of silence are turned upside down when a bickering Israeli family crash their car into the wall of their convent.

The 14 minute film mixes a comedic element into the strained and tense setting in a country at war. Some of the characters make use of caricature like the elderly mother in-law who is constantly arguing with her daughter in-law and the strict nun. The film is entertaining yet lacks the same riveting narrative of its competitors have.

Day one

2. Day One – 8/10

An Afghani interpreter for the US army is thrown  into the job on the first day when she must bridge the cultural gap and help the pregnant wife of a suspected bomb-maker. This story takes a refreshing look on the traditional American action films set in the middle east. It brings another usually unseen side to the tales and the complex issues of culture and tradition when two nations collide and is able to surprise and take unexpected turns despite its 25 minute screen time. This could easily be made into a feature film after the events leave the audience begging to know what could happen on day two, or three?

Shok

3. Shok- 8/10

Two friends in Kosovo find themselves in the middle of a volatile country at war during an occupation in the 90’s. The boys soon become involved in a dangerous situation that tests the limits of their friendship and could even threaten their lives. The film is based on true events and is a heart retching tale of friendship being torn apart by war.  Filmed in a grey palette that creates an effective atmosphere of the desperate times and the devastation that was left behind and using a bicycle as a central metaphor for the innocence and devastation of the time creates a successful and captivating narrative.

stutter

4. Stutterer- 9/10

A lonely typographer with a severe speech impediment is confronted with his biggest fear, meeting the object of his affections in his online relationship in person. This is a charming and humorous film with touches of romance portrayed in a quirky narrative that still manages to highlight the far reaching consequences of a stutter. The film is shot with extreme close ups of the main character that bring the audience into his thoughts and feelings along with his eloquent inner dialogue. The ending of the film is however reminiscent of every well rounded happily ever after romcom except for its long metaphorical moment of silence.  But you’re happy it does.

everything will be ok

5. Everything will be okay – 9/10

What starts out as a usual weekend were a divorced father picks his 8-year-old daughter, Lea, up for the weekend soon becomes anything other than the typical weekend visit when his plan unfolds. This film leaves the audience with a complex moral dilemma and is shot using a hand-held camera technique as well as makes the audience see things from the eyes of a child. The character of Lea is also expertly played by young actress Julia Pointner that far exceeds her age and helps to realize the conflicting emotions present in the separation of parent from child. The end of the film leaves the audience asking if everything will be okay.

Students complain of sexual harassment

Students on campus are signing a petition against alleged sexual harassment by private security.

DON'T TOUCH: Private security personnel on campus are accused of sexually harassing students. Photo: Michelle Gumede

DON’T TOUCH: Private security personnel on campus are accused of sexually harassing students. Photo: Michelle Gumede

 

Over 500 Wits students are signing a petition against the alleged sexual harassment by private security on campus hired to provide “operational control” in the face of fees protests.

“Wits University ought to be free space where females need not to worry about their safety,” says third-year BA student Mpho Ndaba, who started the petition.

The petition aims to raise awareness about sexual harassment on campus. Ndaba says the more female students he has spoken to, the more he realised that the harassment was being normalised.

According to Ndaba, students are not reporting these incidents because they think it’s normal or okay.

One of the students complaining, fourth-year BADA student Swankie Mafoko, says she was verbally harassed by the private security while she was reporting for VOW FM. Mafoko says she was inside Solomon House, when some security guards dressed in black and red came and stood behind her. The men started making sexual remarks about her body in a demeaning way.

She says she wasn’t bothered at first because she is used to catcalling at taxi ranks and other public spaces but she was shocked at the intensity of these guys’ remarks.

“What shocked me was when they were describing my breasts,” says Mafoko.

She says she was so shaken that she put on her denim jacket to cover her breasts and she immediately left without finishing her reporting.

“I panicked and walked away,” Mafoko says.

Mafoko says she did not report her incident because she didn’t see them and she doesn’t believe she can prove her victimisation.

“You can’t prove that kind of harassment on video, it’s my word against theirs,” Mafoko says.

Maria Wanyane, of the Wits Gender Equity office, says they have not received any official complaints about sexual harassment by private security so far.

Private security, who are mainly male, have been stationed on campus since October 2015 at a cost of nearly R2-million per month.

According to the Wits Gender Equity Office, sexual harassment doesn’t have to be physical. It can be any unwanted attention which can include heckling, whistling and catcalling.

“It’s important for everyone who has experienced any form of harassment to come forward and report it,” says Wanyane.

Wanyane says even if someone is harassed on campus by someone they don’t know, the unit has the power to view security footage and assist in identifying alleged perpetrators.

 

When nobody calls 911

A student with epilepsy who had a seizure in class last week has thrown the spotlight on campus preparedness for medical emergencies.

Wits students tweeted about a student suffering an epileptic seizure during a fourth-year law lecture at the FNB Building, West Campus.

According to an eye-witness, in a state of panic the lecturer did not know what to do or who to call.

The university website states that in a case of emergency, there are emergency panic buttons at numerous locations throughout the campus.

It says these can be identified by the orange panel surrounding the buttons and students and staff are encouraged, in the case of a genuine emergency, to press the button to speak to Campus Control.

“From my experiences, some don’t know what’s going on,” said Witsie Olwethu Twala, who suffers from epilepsy.

Twala said dealing with epilepsy on campus has been a daunting task.

“The first episode I had was in Psychology and luckily the lecturer had an idea of what was going on. I then had episodes in Anthropology and African Languages where the lecturer left because she didn’t know what to do,” said Twala.

Wits Campus Health told Wits Vuvuzela that, in the case of medical emergencies, students are to be taken to the clinic.

If the student is able to walk they should make their way down to the medical centre immediately. In the case where a student is unable to make their way to them, a nurse will be sent to assist.

While Campus Health may be available to assist, some students like Twala have resorted to creating a buddy system to ensure their safety on campus. “If you don’t have a friend who knows about your condition, you will find yourself in serious danger. I had to tell and train a friend in each of my classes to know what to do in case I have a seizure,” said Twala.

But despite this, Twala believes more should be done by the university. “The university needs to create awareness and help for the health centre and disabilities unit.”

Twala said: “A lot of the time people don’t think an episode is as serious as it is. Some think you’re just hungry, seeking attention or just faking it to get out of an assignment.”

Campus Control was not available for comment at the time of publication to confirm how well equipped the university and staff are to deal with medical emergencies.

#Ask Ous Kudu

Dear Ous Kudu

I’ve been with my girlfriend for a few years now and everything has been good. But lately we have been having problems. We got into an altercation which ended in a physical fight and a trip to the emergency room. I don’t know what to do because I love her and I don’t believe in hitting anyone let alone women. I can’t continue to let her hit me when she gets upset. Please help.
-Anonymous Witsie

Ous Kudu says:

When arguments end up in physical fights, it’s never a good thing. I think that maybe it’s time you and your partner decide if you should call it quits.
Sometimes you need to disagree without getting physical. And you are probably starting to see the effects of these fights in other spheres of your life. I really think you and your partner need to sit down like the rational adults I know you are and decide what your way forward is.
Now I know you are thinking: ‘but I love her Ous Kudu!!’, but love shouldn’t hurt. Physically or emotionally. You should be building memories with your person, not sending each other to emergency rooms.
Have a burning question to ask or an unresolveable problem You can send your anonymous relationship dilemmas to Ous Kudu at editor@witsvuvuzela or tweet her @OusKudu.

Q and A with Zareef Minty

Zareef Minty is a final-year LLB student, he was in the Mail & Guardian Top Young 200 in 2014 and he made the top 50 of South African GQ magazine’s Best Dressed in 2015. He is an author of a book called Empire and he was the chairperson of the Black Lawyers Association in 2014, he was the treasurer of the Law Students Council previously.He is currently participating in a show called One Day Leader on SABC 1.

Why did you decide to enter One Day Leader?
Ok, so what happened was that I tried to enter the year before, I didn’t even make it to top 90. I just always wanted to enter, I watched the show, before, saw Season 3, and I really enjoyed it. I felt it’s a really good platform for someone to build their leadership.

So far, what have you found challenging in being a part of the show?
So far it’s literally been just our vision statements and it’s quite simple. It’s what you believe in. We also tackled the #FeesMustFall campaign and we presented our solutions to the department of higher education into how can we solve the financial crisis. We looked at removing failing parastatals and cutting down the state wage bill. We also looked at how we can use solar energy for instance and cut down on the expensive way electricity is made at the moment. So these are all different concepts we’re looking at to make enough money available so that students will then have access to free education.

How has the journey so far affected your personal life?
I’m really starting to feel the leadership. I’m starting to feel the whole concept of being more accountable. I used to give myself a longer time limit to get things done, I think now being on the show and noticing that you have two days to do a task, and things need to be implemented, it can happen [in a shorter time].

What do you hate most about the show?
I really don’t have any huge criticisms of the show, I think it’s produced very well. The team that’s running behind the show is phenomenal. The tasks are very uplifting, so I really don’t see any cons to the show. Some room for improvement could be maybe lengthening the time of our debates. [This means] giving us more time to engage because you can’t say that much in two minutes.

What do you want people to know about Zareef by the end of the show?
I want people to know I’m here to stay. I’m not a one-hit-wonder that’s going to appear on a reality show then disappear, I’m going to be around for years to come. I’m here mainly to uplift society, show people the positive change you can create, but to also build a brand that people can understand that this is a future leader, and people [will be able to] identify in 5-10 years from now. I want to be an important stakeholder looking after society and making sure that communities succeed.

Who’s afraid of vaginas?

I can’t remember a time when my friends and I weren’t in conversation about vaginas, hormones, penises and all that jazz.

We throw the “v” word and the “c” word around at all most all encounters over a glass of wine in the midst of roaring laughter and revelations.

However, through the conversations I’ve encountered with women outside of my immediate circle I’ve noticed that a number of young women are much less likely to find themselves inclined to talk about their sexual organs and sexual health.

Somewhere between misogyny and patriarchy we have created this vagina Narnia that deems lady parts as a mystical part of the body that is covered in flowers of which flows an endless supply of rainbows and fireworks. When in reality, the vagina is the muscular passageway that connects the vulva to the cervix. This “thing” we don’t want to talk about, comes in all different shapes and sizes.

Why is it that we see women’s bodies on our TVs, in movies, and all over the internet yet we seem to have a problem actually talking about them in real life?

For a long time anything that is related to women’s bodies has been responded to negatively. There is an internalised fear of discussing women’s sexuality and a male-dominated society has deliberately constructed the idea of femininity to keep men in control.

It was Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex who argued that women have historically been treated as inferior to men for three reasons. Firstly, society teaches women to fulfil a male’s needs and therefore exist in relation to men. Secondly, to follow external cues to seek validation of their worth.

Lastly, women have historically had far fewer rights and therefore less public influence.

Did you even know that it’s normal to have bacteria in your vagina? Did you know that even healthy bodies have a scent and it is actually a good thing because that scent is your pheromones?
But you wouldn’t know that because you aren’t bothered to discuss these things with your doctor, let alone your friends.

Another concerning aspect of this internalised fear concerns going to the gynaecologist. It seemed to me that the women who are afriad to talk about their vaginas were more afraid to go to a doctor about a sexual health issue than an older woman.

Visiting a gynaecologist is a pro-active approach for preventative care of which pap smears and annual exams are very important. According to some health practitioners advise, a woman’s first pap smear should be done within three years after first having sexual intercourse or by age 21. In all honesty, Pap smears are simple tests that can detect abnormal cells on the cervix. Wouldn’t you want to know if there was an abnormality in the “v” thing you carry around?

Whether you have body image issues, concerns about the way it looks and smells or anxiety about achieving orgasm, conversations about sexuality and sexual organs would be a beneficial social activity for all of us.

Surely if you can’t talk about vaginas, then how in the world are you going to take care of one responsibly? Maybe if we talked about the vagina a little more we wouldn’t be so scared of it. Maybe we would have more respect for it and we wouldn’t think it was so “icky and gross”.

Quick Note: HIV Testing Days

THE CAMPUS Health and Wellness Centre (CHWC), which is based on the University’s East Campus, recently announced it will be having a number of days for HIV/Aids testing.
The centre, which will be working with other stakeholders such as New Start, is rolling out this project in line with the national health minister’s 90/90 strategy. The strategy aims to have 90 percent of people tested as well as 90 percent of those found to be HIV positive on treatment.
Sister Yvonne Matimba of Campus Health says it’s important that students become used to testing regularly, so that if there’s a need, students can receive the necessary support from Campus Wellness. So, look out on your campus for the counselling and testing stations and get tested so you know where you stand.
Some of the testing dates include:
04-08 April 2016
10-13 May 2016
19-22 July 2016
16-19 August 2016

Publishers prey on the toil of postgraduates

Predatory publishers are stealing the intellectual property of postgraduates and the university.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY THIEVES: Predatory publishers stalk postgraduate students for their academic papaers and then rip them off. Photo: Michelle Gumede

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY THIEVES: Predatory publishers stalk postgraduate students for their academic papaers and then rip them off. Photo: Michelle Gumede

Postgraduate students have been warned about “predatory publishers” who lure academics eager to publish and charge them fees while making money from the published work.

“They’re essentially making money off free material,” says Wits Wartenweiler scholarly communications librarian, Denise Nicholson.

Nicholson is part of the Wits Open Access movement which seeks to create an alternative to for-profit academic publishing by removing copyright and licensing barriers to academic work.

Nicholson says that “predatory publishers” exploit students and academics who want their work published.

These predators go on the hunt at African institution repositories where they harvest already freely available dissertations and theses from open access websites. Wits has such a repository where all academic theses and dissertations go up and can be openly accessed.

The predatory publishers then write to the author congratulating them, saying they would like to publish their work. When the unsuspecting victim agrees the process of “publishing” commences.

They sometimes promise royalties, which Nicholson says postgrad students never get.

“All they do is put a cover on it. They don’t edit it or take it for peer reviewing,” Nicholson said.

“You never hear from them again as a student,” she adds.

Librarian and Open Access activist, Jefferey Beall explains in his online videos how predatory publishers are exploiting the open access model to trick authors.

Beall highlights six ways to identify predatory open access journal publishers. These include last minute author fees and no formal editorial review boards.

Normal publishers have a set of criteria with which candidates have to adhere to. Firstly, they accept papers, they don’t generally go looking for papers. They also use editorial boards and peer review.

Predatory publishers disregard all international standards and codes.

There are accredited journals which the Department of Higher Education and Training endorses. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), an online directory that indexes high quality journals, lists over 11 000 journals and over 2 million articles. These are high impact journals that are recognised internationally and where authors receive grants or subsidies for their work. The university also receives a sum of money every time a student publishes in one of the listed accredited journals.

“That funds more research,” adds Nicholson.

Nicholson recommends that students who receive invitations to publish with disreputable publishers to write back to them saying “thank you” for the invitation but the intellectual property belongs to Wits and they should contact the university.

Nicholson adds that asking for payment for publishing work is not limited to predatory publishers. She says there are reputable publishers who will charge anything from US$2 000 to US$15 000.

“Recently, one lady who is an academic here paid R34 000 for an article,” Nicholson said.

Students and academics who contribute to academic books can also get royalties when they use a reputable publisher.

According to a publishing assistant at Van Schaik, Thokozile Machika, with academic publishing there is often more than one author and very often the book is the brain child of the editors and publisher. Contributors are chosen according to the specialty, course they teach, and institution the work for.

“So naturally editors get a little more than every ones else because they came up with the idea and the have to work through all the chapters,” says Machika.

According to Machika, most companies allocate a percentage per chapter for royalties. For example if an author is offered 2% per chapter and they write two chapters they get 4% of the royalty cut.

 

Movie Review: Deadpool resurrects superhero movies

deadpool2

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ed Skrein, Morena Baccarin

Directed by: Tim Miller

Vuvu Rating: 9/10

The film is based on the Marvel Comic anti-hero mercenary Wade Wilson, played by Ryan Reynolds, who contracts cancer. Wilson is disfigured after being subjected to a tortuous experiment by villainous scientist Ajax, played by Ed Skrein, forming the scarred and indestructible Deadpool with his twisted sense of humour. Deadpool embarks on a quest to have the side effects of the experiments reversed in order to return to his fiancé (and stripper) Vanessa played by Morena Baccarin. What follows is a lot of gory action, flying bullets and a dark sense of humour never seen before in a comic superhero.

This is the ideal superhero comeback for Reynolds after his lukewarm portrayal of the Green Lantern in 2011 and seems to be a role written to all of the actor’s strengths. His portrayal of the rebellious character somewhat hints at Jim Carrey’s style of humour and physicality. The wise cracks are non-stop from the credits, where the filmmakers and crew call themselves “tools” and “asshats”, to the post credit scenes that poke fun at the audience for staying to watch them. This quirkier version of the tradition comic book films builds on the type of humour we are beginning to see in films like Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy and takes it just a step further by finally bringing us the depraved super-hero we have all been dying to see.

Directed by Tim Miller the film takes notes from Quentin Tarantino’s infamous style of depicting violence with blood splatter flying across the screen and unexpected gore. The film also tends to say all the things you were thinking but were too afraid to say out loud. It manages to poke fun of its self and previous Marvel films whilst still keeping the audience immersed in the world of superheroes and mad scientists. What makes the film even more enjoyable is the throwback soundtrack that features classics from the likes of DMX, Wham and Salt-N-Peppa.

The only drawback of the film is that it is carried mainly by the lead character with minimal impact coming from the supporting cast. Like a rebellious cool kid the film is trying very hard to get the audience to like it and after making a record breaking $132.7 million on its opening weekend it seems that’s exactly what’s happened.