Andreas Späth

Killer whales and Khayelitsha toilets

2014-03-10 13:49

Andreas Wilson-Späth

I’ve mentioned the Cape Town Eco Film Festival previously. It’s happening at the end of this month (from Thursday the 27th to Monday the 31st of March) and I’ll be writing about it here in the lead up.

Just to be clear: yes, I’m one of the organisers of the event, and yes, this is blatant self-promotion. Bite me. The festival is a project of While You Were Sleeping, a non-profit organisation which I helped found a few years ago.

We’ll be screening 25 short and feature-length documentary films, all of them with environmental themes, including ten movies which haven’t been seen on the big screen in South Africa before.

The film that has perhaps created the greatest amount of hype in recent months is Blackfish.

What happens if you confine four-ton predatory whales to a tank that’s only marginally bigger than your typical public swimming pool? Well, the answer isn’t good - for the whales or the people meant to train them to do tricks.

Blackfish reveals the true story of orcas in captivity at SeaWorld and similar marine theme parks, showing how they are captured, housed and trained, and how the companies involved have long suppressed “accidental” – sometimes fatal – attacks on trainers.

Blackfish, which was long-listed but not nominated for a documentary Oscar this year, is an eco-thriller that will have you perched on the edge of your seat. It screens together with a South African short film called First Light, which shows solar light kits being installed in rural KwaZulu Natal homes many of which have never had electricity before.

You might wonder what a film about the lack of access to sanitation in the Cape Town township of Khayelitsha is doing in an eco film festival. The film in question is Siwe’s Journey and the answer is simple: environmental issues don’t just involve rhinos and the melting polar ice caps, but people and their living conditions as well.

The lack of healthy and safe toilets in many of our communities isn’t just a political football to be kicked about by politicians and the media in the run-up to elections, it’s an issue of environmental justice.

What especially appealed to us is that the film was made by a group of Khayelitsha high school students under the banner of Amazwi Wethu (“Our Voices”), a project initiated by Equal Education.

Siwe’s Journey screens with Amazon Gold, an award-winning movie about the devastation wrought on the Amazon rainforest by illegal gold mining, and Damocracy, which chronicles the struggles of local populations against two gigantic proposed dams, the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil and the Ilisu Dam in Turkey.

The festival takes place at the Labia Theatre on Orange Street in Cape Town and you can find all of the info you’ll need on our website.

For every ticket sold, R5 will go to our partners Greenpop, who’ll use the money for their tree-planting projects in South Africa and Zambia. If you really want to make an impact, you can buy Tree Tickets, each of which will allow Greenpop to plant a tree – they’ll even send you a certificate with the tree’s coordinates!

I’ll be back with info about some of the other films we’ll be showing at the festival next week.

- Andreas is a freelance writer with a PhD in geochemistry. Follow him on Twitter: @Andreas_Spath
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