A combined film screening and panel discussion was allegedly halted due to the university’s fears of conflict
Rehad Desai, the multi-award winning filmmaker who bagged an Emmy for his documentary Miners Shot Down has turned his lens to the #FeesMustFall student movement at Wits. The name of his new documentary is Everything Must Fall. He speaks to Wits Vuvuzela about his current film and other projects in the pipeline.
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.
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:
REVIEW: Marikana movie Filmmaker Rehad Desai tells the story of the Marikana tragedy in a real time film
In the same way that Shaka bearing his spears was not on an equal footing with the British colonialists and their rifles, the Marikana miners with their machetes and knobkerries could not have been a true threat to the police.
They were met with nyalas, revolvers, stun grenades and hundreds of police officers. A line was crossed on August 16 2012. That line was the blurry line between self-defence and murder. The Wits Club on West Campus was transformed into a movie theatre on Monday night for a screening of a rough-cut of Rehad Desai’s film, which has the working title of Countdown to Marikana Massacre.
The ”roughness” of the version shown was evident but the story being told was so compelling that there were no grunts and groans when those parts came or technical glitches interrupted viewing. Desai’s version of events shows new evidence that seems damning. The police had footage of the area they now refer to as “scene two”. At this smaller koppie, miners were shot down after the initial shooting.
The police footage was one of the most horrifying yet gripping scenes of the film. It showed just how power had crossed a line and put its rubber boot on the throats or necks of ordinary miners. “Scene two” shows miners’ bodies at the bottom of the koppie. From the way their bodies fell it looks like police officers went after miners who were hiding. Police in the footage are heard congratulating one another for using “nice skills” where their shooting was concerned.
[pullquote]Police in the footage are heard congratulating one another for using “nice skills” where their shooting was concerned.[/pullquote]That scene is the climax to the message Desai had been trying to convey throughout the entire showing. He was saying something about the police and their collusion with Lonmin and perhaps even politicians. He pointed out that this kind of collusion was to blame and showed us what a force it was. This sentiment was further reinforced when new footage was shown of how the shooting on August 16 started. Miners no longer look as if they are charging at the police like in most of the footage circulated in the media, but are rather walking slowly towards the Wonderkop informal settlement.
Suddenly, a shot comes from behind one of the police vans, followed by a return shot by one miner armed with a gun and then the story we have seen before plays out. The film is much like eNCA’s Through the Lens and Seven Days of Night two-part documentary in the way the story unfolds but different because it is clear that one side has been chosen and is favoured by Desai and the commentators he chose to interview.
Journalists are taught to have balance in whatever story we tell and, as we know, there is no such thing as objectivity. As a filmmaker, Desai has chosen the side he believes and backs up his evidence. More evidence has surfaced indicating that on the day of the massacre a call was made to a mortuary ordering four vans, each with the capacity to carry eight bodies. Four-thousand rounds of ammunition were also ordered by our police force.
Even if we tried to put ourselves in the shoes of Lonmin, the government or the police, it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe that self-defence was the reason for 34 miners dying.