By CityLife Arts Writer
A captivating array of impactful and punchy short films focussed around conservation, will be exclusively screened by People’sWeather (DStv Channel-180) in the festival component of the 2020 Nature, Environment & Wildlife Filmmakers (NEWF) Congress which takes place from 25 to 30 October.
The Congress, now in its fourth year, is usually held in Durban, South Africa, and due to COVID-19 regulations, has been moved to an unique innovative virtual platform (A virtual world inside of a VR headset). This African platform brings together nature, environment, and wildlife filmmakers, scientists, conservationists and broadcast media to connect in a series of seminars and discussions and networking sessions as well as to enjoy the screening of topical and relevant films from African filmmakers.
This year, People’sWeather is the official broadcast media of the short films.
“There is a natural and very exciting synergy between People’sWeather and NEWF,” enthuses Stephan Le Roux, CEO of this fast growing Channel on DSTV, “We are fundamentally aligned with where conservation is at in Africa, and the vision for its future. These 26 films, have been made by passionate conservation-savvy African filmmakers who are telling “our” stories, some of which are in indigenous languages. We truly believe that the more we have access to our own stories or experiences around wildlife, nature and conservation, the better informed and equipped we become to protect this rich natural heritage.”
Films, which are all under 15 minutes long, include filmmakers’ personal journeys of discovery, investigative reports on illegal wildlife trade, educational revelations of species and game parks under threat, spiritual connections with marine life, attempts to overcome fears of nature in all its powerful majesty, and much more.
‘There is something for everyone in this fascinating and totally riveting package of short films,” continues Le Roux. “There are snakes and “dragons”, bats and birds, whales and turtles, pangolins and bees, activists and conservationists, scientists and students – each little film, promises to impact on our audiences, and leave them wanting more.”
“The world consumes so much of Africa’s nature and wildlife, yet for so long the nature and wildlife filmmaking genre has literally been an extractive industry with the majority of Africans unable to see the content that is produced on this continent,” says Noel Kok Founder and Programme Director of NEWF. “We cannot save what we cannot see, and therefore it is critically important that catalytic partnerships like these create additional platforms for the next generation of African nature, environment and wildlife storytellers to impact conservation through their films.”
People’sWeather will be screening all these films every day between 25 and 30th October and as a continued project with NEWF.
For more information about the films please see below:
The NEWF Short Film Festival showcase:
Azilali – They do not Sleep – 11.37 mins
The creatures of the sea are always awake to connect with you. Journeying through the life of a dark shy shark foetus, this film is a deep cinematic and aural, bowing to the sacredness of the kelp forests and its myriad life – and non-life forms. It gently reaches out to that which is beyond what can be said about the profundity, mysteriousness and beauty of nature and the universe.
Between the Tides – 10.00 mins
A documentary about the conservation of endangered Loggerhead and Leatherback
Turtles in South Africa. We meet 5 influential people who dedicate their lives to the conservation of this 120 million year old species.
Beyond the Fence – 11.32 mins
Set in rural South Africa, where most people have never had the opportunity to experience wildlife, Queen, Rifumo and Wisani emerge as three young eco-warriors. The film follows how a course in wildlife photography changes their lives. Armed with a camera, the trio aim to rise above their difficult pasts and “reframe” the narrative of wildlife conservation. Queen becomes one of the only black female field guides in South Africa while Rifumo and Wisani start a business together. The trio have one goal – to inspire the youth from their community to protect our natural heritage.
Beyond the Headlines 11.26mins
In South Africa, one of the biggest threats to our natural spaces and wildlife, is mining. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the town of St Lucia in particular, live under the constant threat of mining, because of the rich titanium deposits found on the dunes and shores of their beaches. One of the first acts of Nelson Mandela and our newly elected South African government was to reject mining, and preserve this unique and amazing biodiversity hotspot for current and future generations. This resulted in iSimangaliso Wetland Park becoming South Africa’s first World Heritage Site. The economy of this region is based almost entirely on Wildlife Tourism, and to say that they are reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is an understatement. We all have a responsibility to protect our natural heritage for future generations.
When Lockdown brought everything to a halt, and the last impression of St Lucia
was, misinformation and the hysteria of newspaper headlines about “COVID-19 positive tourists”, the filmmakers knew we needed to act. Following safety guidelines, with a few young filmmakers and the support of the National Geographic Society COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Journalists, they went “Beyond the Headlines”, to tell a story of hope and resilience.
This is a story that shows some of the miracle and wonder of a park, the strength of character and resolve, about a place and its people, and a call to action, that society continues to protect its natural heritage for future generations. For conservation to work in Africa and in South Africa particularly, society needs to create and support a transformed, ethical, sustainable wildlife tourism industry. The time to do that is now.
Epic Encounters – 8.32 mins
This short film hopes to dispel the myths that are widely spread and which people believe to be true about snakes. By creating a film that not only entertains audiences but also educates about the vital role snakes play as part of the eco-system was a privilege for Durban filmmaker Jessica Singh. Follow her as she witnesses snakes being rescued by snake handler Jason’s Arnold, and tries to overcome her own very real fear of these magnificent, and sometimes deadly creatures.
This film documents the journey of 12 young Mozambican students studying towards a Masters in Conservation Biology at Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. This is the only masters programme in the world, conducted inside of a national park.
Hluleka – 9.20 mins
Hluleka is a marine conservation themed nature documentary that aims to encourage community engagement in decision-making. The story focuses on South Africa’s smallest marine protected area, Hluleka. We follow Jamila Janna on an emotional journey unpacking the history, the present and the future through the facilitation of solution-based discussions around inclusivity in decision-making.
Pango – 8.47 mins
When a young pangolin is rescued from the illegal trade by caretaker, Anna Sheehama, they must work together to get Pango strong enough to survive.
Part of the Pack – 9.20 mins
Part of the Pack is a short conservation documentary that focuses on an endangered species – the African Wild Dog. This film highlights the organisations dedicated to making a difference for this species as well as the challenges and life threatening situations that African Wild Dogs have to face on a daily basis. Part of The Pack shines a light on the silent epidemic this species is facing and hopes to be
the motivation to get the public involved to make a difference.
Phemula (Breathe) – 10.00 mins and Phemula BTScenes – 16.00 mins
A NEWF Lab Film
Phefumla follows Loyiso Dunga, a marine scientist from one of South Africa’s most infamous townships, as he embarks on an opportunity of a lifetime. He must overcome his fears of drowning and breathe, to realize his dream of diving deep into the oceans vastness. Through his first sensory overloaded experiences, Loyiso makes profound observations of how humans can learn from the ocean interconnected ecosystems and way of life. Whilst he breathes the oceans calm and experiences first-hand the threat to our oceans biodiversity and the air we breathe, he feels compelled to amplify his responsibility as a marine scientist.
Rise from the Cape Flats – 9.45 mins
A story of a young man who has found peace in the beauty of the ocean through one experience. Despite his surroundings and the challenges faced daily in one of South Africa’s most infamous dangerous areas, he now tries to bring about positive change, starting with his family and his community, through education and experiences by reconnecting them with nature and the ocean.
Saving Dragons – 8.00 mins
There is a terrifyingly large illegal trade happening across the planet right now, and almost nobody knows about it. Reptiles are the most traded group of animals in the world, and unlike rhinos, elephants and pangolins – they are traded alive and whole, destined for life as pets. Poaching of wild reptiles for the pet trade has led to severe population declines, yet little is known about how poachers operate, and how animals leave their country of origin. In this short film, the illegal reptile trade in South Africa is investigated by biologist and filmmaker Shivan Parusnath.
Seekings Giants – 10.45 mins
All life is connected and sometimes a connection with a kindred spirit spans across land and seas. Writer Fidel Tshivhasa was born in Limpopo but throughout his life has had a fascination with the ocean giants, the Humpback Whale. He finally has an opportunity to explore this mystical yearning when he travels along the coastline in Durban to witness the migration of the Humpback Whales
The River Gives – 9.32 mins
The River Gives tells the story of a group of township youth from Imbali and Ashdown in Edendale, Pietermaritzburg. They are the EnviroChamps, a group who have become the unlikely protectors of the wetlands and rivers in their community. Through their journey, they reveal what endangers these systems and explore practical conservation solutions, whilst considering the socio-economic challenges they face as a community. This is their story…
Ulwandle Lushile – 9.53 min
This is a story about the unheard voices of traditional marine fishers. On the doorstep of iSimangaliso Wetland Park – a nature lover’s wonderland that attracts tourists from all over the world – are the homes of the poorest and most marginalised coastal communities who have a high dependency on natural resources for survival. In the heart of the most tranquil beaches, we follow brave village women as they conquer the harshness of the waves just to provide for their families.
We take a walk in their shoes as they share in on their past and present experiences of the ocean, the generational access to marine living resources, their indigenous knowledge on the practice of mussel harvesting and what they hope for in future, especially since they were once criminalised during apartheid times for wanting to provide food for their families.
Whisperers of the Delta
WILD WOMEN SERIES
Ten powerful women in conservation science and media from South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Mozambique, Rwanda, Zambia and Kenya were selected for the NEWF Wild Women Media Lab. From 10th – 22nd August 2020, the cohort engaged in intensive online filmmaking workshops with industry experts and mentors from around the world to guide them through the process of producing a micro-film – a first time experience for all. Each participant was provided with a media making legacy package, allowing them to each develop, film and edit their stories in just a few days. The NEWF Wild Women Media Lab has been designed in partnership with Jackson Wild and is supported by HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, American Film Showcase, the United States Mission South Africa and National Geographic Society.
Bo Bossa: Waste Collector- South Africa 3.33mins
A film about informal recycling and how it has become a source of living for many, particularly the homeless, in the capital of South Africa, Pretoria. The camera turns to a specific man living in the streets, following him around as he does about collecting waste, getting a glimpse into his life struggles, triumphs and how recycling has and continues to be a way of life for him.
Fighting Rabies – Zambia 3.47mins
A young veterinary student shows concern about a disease affecting pets in her community.
Hurt by Science – South Africa 5.7 mins
This film is in response to the acclaimed Professor Nicoli Nattrass’ (from the University of Cape Town) most recent publication, which is deemed to be controversial, offensive and poor-scient that made stereotypic conclusions about Black South African students at the institution. Four black students: an Alumni, PhD candidate, Masters student and an Honours graduate give their personal review of the findings, interpretations and scientific plausibility of the article.
Illotorok – Tanzania 3.38mins
Illotorok meaning “bees” is a film about the shift in perspective of bees by the Maasai, showing how bees are now used for honey and conservation in the Maasai community.
Invasion – Kenya 3.34mins
Invasion is a short film about how development within a protected area brings about invasive species, which have a negative effect on the ecosystem in Nairobi National Park.
My Guardian of the Night – Rwanda 2.43mins
A film about a biologist in Rwanda who shares her love for bats and the positive impact they have on the environment. With the help of Rwanda Wildlife Conservation
Association she has researched them and calls them her “Guardians of the Night”.
Save the Pangolin – Mozambique 3.15mins
Daily, several pangolins are trafficked by humans, a practice that brings the species close to extinction. This film showcases some of the work done at the Pangolin
Rehabilitation Center at Gorongosa National Park
When the Forest goes Silent – Nigeria 3.51mins
This microfilm is an audioscape of the consequences of ‘systemic’ deforestation. The film combines sound and visuals with poetic elements to draw attention to the negative impacts of human encroachment into forest landscapes in our day to day lives.
Wozani – South Africa 3.46mins
This film sets out to research how the youth adjacent to protected areas in KwaZulu-Natal relate and view having a protected area next to their community.