I am online from a hotel in Krakow. Been up since around 4 am. Tonight late I take a bus to Lviv in Western Ukraine. This is a voyage like none I have taken before. And on the work front, another intense journey, lasting almost 3 years, is coming to an end. Our first documentary film project “57” is about to be delivered at the end of this month. It will go out on the SABC in September and if all goes well it may get onto Netflix around middle of next year. I have been involved with indie film making for over two decades and this was our first non-scripted project.
A documentary, we learned, is a whole different ballgame to scripted storytelling. It was a hectic learning curve and we made many mistakes. The knowledge we have gained will put us in good standing for a future documentary project. I am pleased to say that “57” tuned out excellent. It is powerful and compelling and as our one partner said, “It is profound.” Probably one our best film projects so far. Certainly an important story to tell – a mission with a strong sense of purpose.
I recently watched the film with my 14 year old nephew Aras who was staying with us down in Fancourt for a week. He did not look at his phone once and he had many questions when the film was over. I knew the film was working well. The number of people being murdered in SA each day is 57. This is what the statistic was when we started this project. Today, that number is 67.
If anyone out there is attempting to make a documentary here are some pointers: try keep your visual archive to a minimum. And if you are making use of library music, make sure the licenses covers streaming and broadcast. Releasing content on YouTube is not the same as broadcast television and streaming. The rights issues can be quite a thing. Especially when it comes to the use of still images (photographs). And if your images contain children then one has to be extra careful and sensitive. So much knowledge was gained with so many sleepless nights, to remind us never to make these same mistakes again. It was a difficult journey and took a lot of strength. The team has done well and this is a serious milestone.
Here is a summary of Craig Freimond’s rationale for “57”. Craig directed the film and he is also the narrator of the story.
57 is the number of South African’s that have been murdered every day in the last few years.
That is essentially what this moving and yet entertaining and inspiring film seeks to understand.
Craig Freimond : Most of my professional work is writing and directing feature films but a tragic event occurred that set me and some partners on a soul-searching path to make a different kind of film.
In February 2019 a small South African indie film directed by Kagiso Lediga called Matwetwe had just been released on circuit and was causing a mini-sensation. Audiences were flocking to see this mad, crazy tale of two friends with a wild scheme, lovingly laced with the lingo of the Pretoria Townships. It was a beautiful thing, a film made with lots of passion, instinct and love with a band of young community actors on the tiniest budget, was actually succeeding. It was so exciting for everybody involved, not least of all the two young stars Sibusiso Kwinana (S’bu) and Tebatso Mashisi. I knew the director and the producers and had followed the journey of the film from the beginning. I was at the premiere in and watched the wild and crazy response from the audience. I have been around for long enough to know this would be a hit. The audience howled with appreciation of the story, the language, the vibe and this wonderful depiction of the many shades of township life. This was going to be a locally made unexpected success story. The early weeks at the box office proved to be just that. The film was doing unbelievable business. It was making everyone involved very happy.
And then the unthinkable happened. The lead actor of film Sibusiso Kwinana was murdered in an attempted robbery for his cell phone. The incident happened outside a cinema in Pretoria where he had gone to watch the film with the local audience.
It took everyone some time to comprehend the tragedy that had occurred. S’bu was not only the lead of the film but a vibrant, enigmatic young man who inspired those around him. A man with a plan, a man who was going to do something special with his life. The sadness that this random act of violence created was unimaginable. The joy of everything that had happened with the film was stabbed, punctured, destroyed. It was impossible to watch the film without a sick feeling in the pit of one’s stomach. The incident left everyone involved at an utter loss. Desperation and despair set in. Even though I was only peripherally involved with the film and S’bu, I could simply not come to terms with what had happened. I was born in 1967 and have lived in Johannesburg my entire life so I have seen my fair share of South African heartache but there was something different about this. This was the death of promise, the death of potential and it led all of us to ask some very hard questions about the society that we live in. S’bu’s death was very high profile but there were 56 other people murdered that day in South Africa. Why are we killing our own people? Why are we killing our own potential?
We were so paralyzed by Sbu’s death that we decided to make a small film about it, so that at least we were doing something! The film would be both to honour S’bu but also to try and understand some of the questions that were plaguing us and that led to his and many other murders every single day. We were clear that we did not want to make a grim, depressing film but rather just an honest one, that could have love and laughter as well as the sadness and despair of the subject. Above all we wanted to make a film that was helpful to the people watching it. The issue of violent crime in South Africa is so overwhelming and endemic that there are very few helpful and reflections on it. Was there a way of looking at these issues that would be more helpful and illuminating?
In my spare time I work as a trauma counsellor for the Victims Support Unit of my local police station. It mostly deals with the effects and fallout of violent crime on ordinary South Africans. So this is a subject that is extremely close to my heart. Why do we have so much violent crime? What creates violence? Why do we have so much male rage? How do our socio-economic situation, with desperate levels of poverty unemployment and inequality play into the levels of crime? What can the police do? We were seeking reflections on these and many other questions. Probably the most important question of all was, is there anything we can do about it?
We started filming in February 2020, we have spoken to criminologists, psychologists, healers, academics, historians, comedians, policeman, crime fighters, actors, writers, directors, celebrities, talk show hosts and many, many ordinary South Africans. We grappled with these tough questions together. We faced the pandemic along the way, and even the devastation of recent events in KZN, all events that shine the spotlight onto this conversation in different ways. We have tried to make a film that is heartfelt, truthful, devastating, sad, but also helpful, insightful and entertaining to watch. If we are to succeed as a nation, to truly emerge from out brutal past and fulfill the potential that we know we have, then we have to find a way to answer and solve some of these difficult and painful questions.