Inspired by her love for storytelling and socialising, Mbali Mashaba used the Reel to Reality festival as an opportunity to promote a culture of cinema.  

A new Wits graduate has started her very own film festival – Reel to Reality – which was launched on Saturday, March 27 at The Bioscope Independent Cinema in Milpark.    

The festival consisted of two sessions, each screening four short films that included dramas, thrillers and documentaries.  

The selection of these films was centred around stories that reflected an African perspective through characterisation, context and setting. The festival made use of films from students, independent and more established filmmakers 

“This is to present a film festival with very [few] barriers to entry in order to meet and celebrate every stage of one’s storytelling journey, says Mbali Mashaba, founder of Reel to Reality.  

One of the featured films, Moya, won a Safta Award for best student film in 2020. It was directed by another Wits alumnus, Siyabonga Mbhele. Moya is a short film that interrogates the institutions of culture and religion and how they influence the psyche of an individual.  “I think of film festivals as an opportunity to celebrate storytelling while also sharing spaces with people who may have similar passions” Mashaba told Wits Vuvuzela 

The 22-year-old graduated from Wits in December 2020, obtaining a bachelor of arts in film and television. As a newly independent filmmaker, she has taken the liberty of starting her own creative agency, Behind Her Lens Visuals, through which the festival was organised. This has helped her build credibility within the film industry.  

The Reel to Reality Film Festival is an initiative that represents everything we are trying to achieve here at The Bioscope,” says Russell Grant, the cinema’s owner. “We want to be a place to screen upandcoming filmmakers’ work When someone comes to us with this kind of idea, it is pretty much a no-brainer to help make the idea possible,” Grant says.  

The Bioscope contributed to the festival by offering the venue for the event to take place. “They didn’t have to hire the venue nor bring in the equipment needed. We instead offered to share the revenue we generated together,” Grant told Wits Vuvuzela 

Mashaba says one of the main challenges in organising the event was sourcing local films that filmmakers were interested in showing.  

Despite these obstacles, Reel to Reality proved to be a success as both sessions of the show were sold out. A maximum of 24 people could attend per session due to social distancing protocolsand each ticket sold for R100A total of 48 people could thus attend the event.  

QhamQwesha, a former classmate of Mashaba’s, told Wits Vuvuzela that she is proud of her for starting her own festival this early in her careerHaving events like these that showcase different stories with different backgrounds and messages is important for the growth of the art of film. It gives a platform to young artists to have their work shown to wider audiences. 

In addition to the festival, Mashaba plans to host a panel discussion, Reel to Reality Talks, which is scheduled for later in the year.  She plans to make both the festival and panel discussion annual events 

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits graduate Mbali Mashaba recently hosted the Reel to Reality film festival. Photo: Provided