Meet the Cape Town filmmaker behind the inspirational viral videos

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Joshua Rubin. (Photo: Supplied)
Joshua Rubin. (Photo: Supplied)

He’s always taken an interest in telling the stories of people who live differently to him.

Gangsters, homeless people, township residents – Joshua Rubin has worked with them all, using his passion for filmmaking and photography as a mic for the voiceless.

“I find people fascinating, especially in South Africa,” Joshua (23) says.

“We have such a variety of different cultures and different kinds of people.”

Several of his videos have gone viral, the most recent being the story of Fernando Mkhabela, a self-taught builder and designer.

Fernando, who lives in Joe Slovo, an informal settlement in Cape Town, transformed his shack into a mini palace.

The humble abode even features a ceiling that lights up in a range of colours with the switch of a button.

Joshua captured the impeccable architecture and shared it to his Facebook page South African Stories. The video went viral, racking up close to 300 000 views.

“I met Fernando through Christopher, a man I spotted while driving around,” Joshua explains.

“I stopped to have a conversation with Chris and afterwards went to his shack to Joe Slovo. The shack was completely run down. From one wall to the other was about 1,8m and it was about 2m tall. The sides and roof were caved in. It was a bad situation.”

Feeling compelled to help, Joshua made a video asking for funds to build Chris a new shack and a new bed as he was sleeping on a piece of wood with two concrete blocks underneath.

After raising enough money, they came across Fernando.

“I asked Fernando if we could first see some of his work. He invited us back to his shack and that was how we started working together.”

Even though the viral videos help to get his name out there, Joshua, who was born in Zimbabwe but now lives in Cape Town, says he is not after publicity.

“The reason I love what I do so much is because I get to combine my passion for film making and photography with helping people.”

Finding these stories are not always easy and Joshua leaves a large part of it up to chance.

“I drive around for hours just looking for people and talking to them,” he explains.

“I ask permission before I shoot anything. It helps to build a good relationship with these people.”

The time he spent studying at the Orms Cape Town School of Photography has helped him shoot and edit the content he creates.

“A lot of the time people are quite sceptical, but I do explain as best I can. I tell them exactly what I am using them for. I even show them some other videos I have made.”

On South African Stories and on his personal Instagram account he posts his interviews and documentaries. It ranges from discussions with former prisoners to xenophobia victims seeking refuge in Cape Town.

“What I have learned is to not just judge people right away. I work with gangsters and the homeless and people often have this perception that people like that have nothing to contribute to the world. But that is wrong. They have so much to give. It might not be material things but just the wisdom some of them have is amazing.”

He will also be shooting videos on such topics for the popular online group #ImStaying.

“I want to change the perceptions we have of these areas and people,” Joshua says.

“I want us to realise that they are not bad. They are just people who have had bad luck or have been put in hard situations.

“This is my passion.”

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