Wits film graduates fly the South African flag high at a Paris film festival.

Sikelela Tapes, a film produced by a group of Wits University film students, was screened internationally for the Saison Africa 2020 film fest at La Femis film school in Paris on Thursday, March 25. The film was one of only two South African productions to debut at the festival.  

“It’s really impressive that our film, which was just intended to be an experimental film for our honours class, was well received internationally … (it) was something we never really anticipated.” said Tsogo Kupaone of the five directors of the production. The other directors were Matthijs VuijkDjibril Cullis; Luke Johnstone and Alex Sono, all of whom produced the film in a fourth year experimental film course as part of the BA film and television degree.  

The film critiques the South African national anthem in terms of contemporary South African identity and attempts to “remix” this identity by combining the experiences of each one of the directors.  The screening was hosted virtually by La Femis, which is considered one of the best film schools in France. Six films from the African continent were screened at the festival in an attempt to showcase a collaboration between African arts the rest of the worldSikelela Tapes was joined by another South African film at the festival, Junior, which was produced by students at AFDA Cape Town.  

Nobunye Levin, lecturer of the group that produced Sikelela Tapes, credits the films international success to the filmmakers highly interactive method of negotiating an intersection of masculinity and its combination with issues of race, gender and nationhood.  Their [filmmakers’] direct implication in the film creates an affective cinematic experience that encourages closeness as well as a care for the issues explored by the filmmakers.” said Nobunye. 

Tsogo, who represented the group at the screening, said he found it difficult to participate in the post-screening discussions. “A lot of the participants spoke in French which made it a little difficult to engage with the others … however the jurors were bilingual and the feedback they gave was that they were really impressed with the film and the thinking process behind it, Tsogo said. 

The film’s success has inspired them to submit the film to local festivals. They have since sent their film to the Durban International Film Festival and the South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTA), for consideration.  The film is expected to be released to the public once the film festivals announce their line-ups.

FEATURED IMAGE: Luke Johnstone (left) and Alex Sono (right) on set. Photo: Provided.