Part TWO

Shooting films in Alexandra is more than just being moths attracted to a bright light. Alexandra is not that bright which makes this endeavour a civil duty. It is also about using the power of the visual media to bring to the screen stories about spaces that otherwise would have fallen into the cracks. This township is not just surreality and grit, it is also a bearer of giants that went on to make an impact in the lives of all South Afrikans. You mention Prof Wally Serote, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile, Gauteng Sports, Arts and Culture MEC Lebogang Maile, Leepile Taunyane etc.

So, when on the second day of the shoot it took us time to start working I felt that the pace was understandable – the reason we were too slow to move was because we were carrying the whole township on our shoulders. When someday director Shaft mounts that stage and receives that award for Best Picture, when he mentions the derelict kasie nestled between affluence, the whole world will have to stop and take a notice. They will have to ask ‘where in the damn world is this celebrated Alexandra?”

Of course there are landmarks in the world that gained their notoriety from having served as movie backdrops for some of the world’s award-winning flicks. We hope when we call it a wrap, Alex, Ga-Mampjana will be a tourist destination with all the benefits of Euros and dollars accruing to this community. Movies don’t only make sense when they were shot on expensively constructed sets, think Slumdog Millionaire and City Of God. They make sense because a good story is getting told – with apologies to Sex & the City II.

While on set, in conversation with the crew and cast we joked about spaghetti westerns where they simply secure vacant land from the municipality and recreate the whole damn El Paso or Texas with wood and nails. They shoot on that set with every living object being an extra and every cauldron and spike being a prop. Their wardrobe is imaginary as if it was borrowed from Terminator 10 – I won’t be back. They love crane shots to market the set builders who are the producer’s cousin. After the shoot they demolish everything and leave – well, nothing except dead grass. Or in a twist to the script the whole town gets burned down by a deranged Sheriff.

They don’t feel indebted to any local as they shop the film to festivals and scoop awards for gore and a number of bullets fired in one shootout where nobody got shot. Maybe that’s why that genre never survived civilisation – it just lacked soul.

Kanye West raps I’m Coming Home, “in my heart is where she’ll always be/ she never mess with entertainers cuz they always leave’. Maybe Alex can claim the same thing about its heroes. Most of them always leave for Sandton next door – but it can rest assured in the heart of the crew of Cast the First Stone that’s where she’ll always be. She can mess with filmmakers cuz they always bring the Oscar back.

Making films is always about networking – building those eternal networks you will tap into at some stage in your life. When you are on set with talented actors such as Bra Jeff Sekele, Vuyo Dabula, Siya Ngwekazi, Kagiso Gwyza and many others there’s no dull moment. I always suspected from his music but I found Gwyza to be such a funny guy, I don’t know if he knows it – he can crack a stand-up comedy set hands down. He said a whole load of funny stuff about Brazilian weaves that kept me and producer, Sechaba in stitches.

Slums are disturbing as well and Alexandra has its fair share. While policed like South Central Los Angeles (minus the ghetto birds) it is surprising that some suspected conman at 3rd Avenue still got jumped so bad it gave me a cramp in my stomach. I hate blood and gore even though a few will get spilled in Cast the First Stone.

With its ever-smiling people and lots of schoolchildren who just wanted to be part of history and the hard-working cast that just wanted to have the job done, it was sad when on the second day one said ‘goodbye’ to Ga-Mampjana (Gomorah) and its squalor. Like Kanye said, ‘in my heart is where she’ll always be’. Come on, mess with me baby cuz I’ll be gone til November but I’ll always come back.

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