Local student film wins big in SA

2009-03-27 00:00

AN innovative mix of animation and live performance has helped two University of KwaZulu-Natal students to win prizes in the M-Net Edit competition.

Filmmakers from the UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus have had great success in the annual competition — in the last three years, three students have won financing to make short films.

Tom Hart, a Masters student, is the latest recipient. He used his grant to make the film The Voice of our Forefathers, which last week won awards for cinematography and animation at a ceremony in Montecasino, Johannesburg. His film was up against projects from Wits University, AFDA Johannesburg and Cape Town City Varsity.

Hart, who was born in Pietermaritzburg, said the story is set in a San community outside Kimberley. It takes a closer look at the lives of the Khee people, in particular a young blind boy and his grandfather whose intergenerational conflict is finally resolved thanks to the Khee tradition of oral storytelling.

Hart, who directed and produced the project, asked Zimbabwe-born Lee Garakara, who is doing a Masters in Fine Art (specialising in animation), to provide animated sequences for the film. The animation is used to illustrate the oral stories told by the blind boy and his grandfather.

Both men said it was challenging getting the two mediums to gel. “In terms of telling the traditional story, the animation helps you understand. It was a new concept, but in terms of the reaction we’ve had, it really worked,” said Hart.

Garakara, who received the M-Net Edit award for Best Animation, said that from an animation point of view, he had to reformat his thinking. “I normally work with stop motion animation, so I had to go into new territory.

“I had to make sure the animation worked with the footage I was given … and I did a lot of research into the location, dress, hunting — basically how everything works in that culture before I even contemplated doing any storyboards. It was challenging, but interesting at the same time.”

Shooting the film, which used local Khee people as actors and the local language on the soundtrack, was also a challenge.

“We had technical problems on the shoot,” Hart said. “The camera broke down; it made capturing the film difficult, so when it came to editing it, post production took a long time.”

Credit for editing The Voice of our Forefathers, he added, has to go to Matthew Nedft from the Durban Media Project, who also acted as an assistant director on the production.

Mike Hatton, who runs the Honours digital film production modules at UKZN, said he was extremely proud of the students’ success.

Film students do courses run by Professor Anton van der Hoven and Dr Jill Arnott and a script writing course with Janet van Eeden, and Hatton believes these courses inspire them to try their hand at filmmaking and to go on to do a practical filmmaking course at honours level.

•M-Net has confirmed that it will be screening the student films later this year, although no dates had been confirmed at the time of going to press.

•The film will be premiered at the Jack Heath Gallery at UKZN on March 30 at 6 pm.

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