In May 2008, while in Cannes, six filmmakers (men/women, black/white, from the US, South Africa, Nigeria, etc.) formed a group called Filmmakers Against Racism (FAR). They were inspired to take action after an explosion of black-against-black violence and riots and racial hatred in Alexandra, South Africa. Victims were refugees from Zimbabwe, Somalia, etc. The FAR grAoup eventually grew to nine members who pledged to film the consequences and show them to the people in order to intervene, make change, and open their eyes. They would give away commercial rights to their films and make them available to churches, NGOs, trade unions, schools, and civil groups.
Six of the group present at the panel discussion in Berlin were Rehad Desai, Riaan Hendricks, Omelga Mthiyane, Andy Spitz, Danny Turken and Adze Ugah. They told of going into displacements camps and townships to give a voice to these people. I was enormously impressed with white, female Danny Turken from the US who actually lived for a longer period in an all-black township. They interviewed teachers who turned an abandoned bus into a school. They found that often the problem was not the refugees but common criminals breaking the law or people jumping the housing waiting list for preferred treatment. News was often malicious, confused, and false, infiltrated by political agendas. Angry people sought scapegoats. The filmmakers found that people were willing to talk if there was a listener and asked the right questions towards finding a solution. Some were homesick for a return of apartheid when life was “better.” These filmmakers intend to keep the issue alive, use film as a tool of intervention to make change. They said, “It is crucial that voices speak out against government and keep the leadership accountable.”
SNIPPETS: Protestors stand outside the SONY center to express dissatisfaction with the Iranian film Letters to the President by Petr Lom. They felt that it did not deserve the privilege of a Berlinale showing and the resulting publicity.
It was a protest against the present government of Iran, especially President Ahmadinejad.