BOOK REVIEW: Uncovering Memory through the camera-lens 

This project takes the reader on a journey across lands to explore the complex nature of memory; leaving them wanting to explore their own.  

Uncovering Memory is a powerful book which unpacks a research project aimed at working through personal, familial and societal memories by using film to locate oneself in the current day. 

Living in post-colonial and apartheid South Africa, the book recognises that South Africans live in a society that is filled with imagery from the past, and it wants to unearth how these images affect people’s sub-conscious minds.  

Written by Wits film and television professor, Tanja Sakota and published by the Wits University Press in March this year, the book is compilation of understandable and practical examples of the power of practice-based research, film and autobiographical style of academic writing that draws on and analyses the author’s own lived experiences.  

For example, the book seeks to answer the question of how a student in the 21st century can look at a statue of Cecil John Rhodes during #RhodesMustFall in 2015, and be so emotionally charged to throw feces on a statue of Rhodes. In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela, Sakota describes spaces and places around us as, “deeply entrenched with the memory of the past”.  

Using the camera as the primary research tool, Sakota and fellow participants walk through chosen areas which represent something historically important to that researcher, and later, they narrate and critically unpack the impact these spaces had on them. In doing so, they seek to “uncover memory through space and place” to try and “make the invisible, visible through a camera.” Sakota does this in her book as well as in a series of short-film projects under the same name as the book. 

Wits Professor Tanja Sakota is all smiles when showing her newly published book Uncovering Memory on April 28, in front of the Wits theatre. Photo: Seth Thorne

In these films, released and explained in tandem with the book, participants explore their own historical trauma. Specifically, and most memorably, Sakota explores her parents own personal trauma through walking along the train-tracks in Poland which once transported millions to their death during the Holocaust in her own short film titled, Shattered Reflection. The topics that Sakota uncovers of her own are at times heart-breaking memories of both past and present, through these spaces. 

The book is separated into three main parts: research with students, then colleagues, and finally the authors. The research focused on locations such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Berlin.

As much as each part of the book provides well thought out ideas of the subject matter, the work becomes more powerful for the reader as the book progresses. This is due to the increasingly personal style of writing, where Sakota eventually finds herself central to the research, where she is the filmmaker and researcher unpacking both her own personal and family trauma.  

The book challenges the concept of research being separate from oneself, serving as a key reference for students and researchers (particularly filmmakers) interested in undertaking a similar journey of uncovering their own memories, in attempts to locate who they are in a postcolonial space.  

The book does not have a conclusive ending, but rather serves as a starting point for its readers to use.  

Currently, the book is available on Loot or BridgeBooks.  

Vuvu rating: 8/10 

FEATURED IMAGE: The cover of Uncovering Memory displayed at the Wits University Press. Photo: Seth Thorne

RELATED ARTICLES:

Movie Review: Avengers Infinity War

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Zoe Saldana, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Vuvu rating: 7

Fans flock to see Avengers Infinity War.                                                   Photo: Sanet Oberholzer

Avengers Infinity War has left audiences aghast since it was released in theatres on April 27. The storyline breaks the familiar formula of many superhero movies and leaves the viewer with endless questions of what this means for the future of the Marvel franchise.

The movie is the culmination of all the previous movies within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It is the third of the Avengers movies and flows particularly from Captain America Civil War, Thor Ragnarok, and to a lesser extent, Black Panther. Essentially the movie can’t be viewed and understood without knowledge of the previous Marvel films.

As what was to be expected, Infinity War brings together most of the Marvel superhero cast – 27 characters to be specific – to fight the super villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) who has set out on a mission to collect all six infinity stones which have been referred to in previous movies. Together, these stones bestow on the bearer infinite power. For Thanos this means the ability to wipe out half of the universe’s population with the snap of his fingers in order to bring about what he views to be a “balanced world”. To him, this is essential to sustain life in an environment which is becoming increasingly limited in resources.

Captain America Civil War movie ended with the Avengers going their separate ways, while Infinity War sees many of them come together again to fight a common enemy – Thanos. Although Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) aren’t seen fighting alongside each other in the movie, the superheroes make a return on a quest to save the universe.

It’s the first time various casts of the MCU are brought together. Most notably, the Guardians of the Galaxy are introduced to fight alongside the Avengers as is the cast of Black Panther and Dr Strange. Following from the tone of the latest Thor and The Guardians of the Galaxy movies, the characters from these movies bring the comic relief. Spider-Man is introduced into a bigger role and officially becomes an Avenger. We also witness a few deaths of notable characters.

The movie did well in blending 27 different characters from nine different movies: The Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man and Black Panther. It does a good job of portraying human elements of loss, loyalty and connection. It is the first time I’ve seen the villain showing elements of humanity and emotion which is something I feel contributes to the viewer’s understanding of his motives. The film makes a powerful statement about earth’s finite resources and while Thanos’s means don’t justify his end, with some thought you can understand his justification.

It’s already largely assumed that an Avengers 4 movie will be coming out in a year’s time. As with all these movies, there is a post-credit scene which gives a clue as to what is to come as Captain Marvel, the MCU’s biggest and strongest superhero, is introduced.

One possibility of the outcome of this movie is that the MCU will take on a new face into the future but I think the more likely scenario is for Captain Marvel’s upcoming movie, and possibly the next Ant-Man movie, to lead into Avengers 4. I cannot think that Marvel is likely to leave its franchise where Infinity War left off. Without introducing a spoiler, there is too much money to be made from various franchises that have recently been introduced; these movies won’t be dissolved now. To devastated viewers, this will sadly mean another year before we see where Marvel plans to take the MCU.

RELATED ARTICLES: 

Documentary questions the role of government and journalism in Marikana

SHOT DOWN: One of the final posters for the film.

SHOT DOWN: One of the final posters for the film. Minersshotdown.co.za

The Wits Journalism Department hosted a screening of Miners Shot Down,  a documentary on the shootings at Marikana, as part of a wider discussion on investigative journalism.

Miners Shot Down, a documentary by Rehad Desai, was screened this Tuesday at Wits University, at a discussion about the state of investigative journalism in South Africa.

The film depicts the Marikana massacre which followed after a prolonged strike by mineworkers for an increase in wages. The shootings, by the police resulted in the deaths of 34 miners.

With video clips of prominent people like photojournalist Greg Marinovich speaking of the aftermath, National Police Commissioner, Phiyega, former Intelligence Services Minister Ronnie Kasrils, the film questions the role of government in the massacre. According to Desai, the footage from Marikana is the unedited versions of the killings.

The documentary opens with a scene where the miners are being gunned down by police officers. The action and tension builds up in a chronological sequence, from what led to the strike, until the day of the massacre. The narrative is from the perspective of the miners which results in a poignant telling of a story that has been heard from a number of different perspectives.
Head Wits Journalism, Professor Anton Harber, told Wits Vuvuzela that he found the film powerful because it raised important questions about who was responsible for the massacre.

“What was shocking was not just the apparent callousness of the police, but the depth of the collusion between the mine managers and the police in the build up to the shooting,” Harber said.
Tebogo Mogole, a 4th year LLB student said, “The film was real; it exposes the truth which is obviously not coherent what we were initially told.”

The role of the media

The film also questions the coverage of events by journalists because it shows the contrast between what was initially portrayed to the public versus what actually happened.

James Nichol, a lawyer working pro bono representing the dead miners’ families at the Marikana judicial commission, was present at the screening and he highlighted the importance of investigative journalism in the case.
He said that the post-mortem results of the dead miners raised questions of the killings as there were 14 people shot in the back, yet the police maintain that it was an act of self-defence.

“journalists should be the “protectors of democracy,”

According to Nichol, journalists should be the “protectors of democracy”, holding people accountable for their actions.
Harber said, “The film shows the importance of an investigative approach in that it gathered evidence to challenge the official view of what happened.”
Desai said that his intentions with the film were to set the record straight by giving truthful narratives and “moving people emotionally to incite help and ensure that a painful event like this does not happen again”.
The film was released last year and it has received several international awards such as an Aung San Suu Kyi Award for Best film and two South African awards: the Golden Horn Award for Best Documentary Feature and Achievement in Sound.
The film screening dates can be seen on their website: www.minersshotdown.com.

Watch the trailer of the movie here:

Movie Review: Hear Me Move

Starring: Nyaniso Dzedze, Wandile Molebatsi, Bontle Modiselle

Directed By: Scottnes L. Smith

Vuvuzela rating: 7/10

Big23_hear_me_move commercial, South African films are so rare, besides the Afrikaans rom-coms of course, that as a citizen you want to celebrate every one that is released. Hear Me Move is a nice try.

Directed by Scottnes Smith, Hear Me Move might leave some people confused about a few things. South Africa’s first dance film is set against the backdrop of Johannesburg’s neon city lights and townships. Throughout the film, however, you wonder how they get from one place to another, they seem to pass between the two places without effort.

This colourful and pacey film attempts to bring the story of Muzi (Nyaniso Dzedze), the son of a famous pantsula dancer to the screen. Muzi’s father who tragically died 12 years ago becomes the driving force of the film and the reason for many of Muzi’s woes and triumphs as a dancer.

The popular township dance style called sbujwa is highlighted in the movie, and with a love story added to the mix, the built-up passion fizzles to a barely-there kiss.

The directing and producing is almost clean in its execution, and the music refuses to go unnoticed in a great way. But its clear fundamental errors were made at a scriptwriting level.

The premise of the ‘lost son’ looking for his father’s presence is forced onto the viewer and you’re left exasperated by it all. A film driven by events rather than character.

The hard work put in by the dancers is evident, and their bodies reflect this. If there is something to really appreciate, it’s the amazing eye-candy.

However their too-toned bodies are too contemporary and too exercised for the laid back, swanky, almost-too-skinny vibe we know to be sbujwa dancing, the film fails to capture that authentic township feel.

The high-end dancing and the ‘underground’ settings for the competitions, with famous judges and hosts, feels unrealistic and copied from American movies.

Not all is lost however, some moments are golden and they bring the story back to life. Mbuso Kgarebe, who plays the antagonist Prince, is formidably intense and Khanyi (Bontle Modiselle) who plays Muzi’s love interest has the kind of legs that go on forever.

It’s a fun film to watch, because of the dance elements, and as a South African it might be your duty to watch but it scores low on originality and authenticity.