Article by: Hlogi Sepota
Nestled in the heart of Soweto is the Soweto Theatre which served as the backdrop to the Women in Dialogue Festival which happened over the past weekend (31 August – 1 September). Buzzing with young creative minds, it was the perfect setting to help cultivate and shape the future of film. The cold weather did not stop anyone as people arrived in anticipation for discussions as well as the streaming of films that were on offer. Gathered in the courtyard of the Soweto Theatre, the smell of popcorn in the air and the mounted screen, it surely was going to be one for the books.
Much like any dialogue, this festival aimed at not only teaching and empowering the future filmmakers of our era but also to celebrate young female filmmakers for their contribution not only in the industry but for carving a path and breaking gender norms and stereotypes in the contemporary film making scene. The Women in Dialogue Festival served as a tool for both learning, unlearning and challenging our preconceived ideas that are deeply ingrained in all of us. I say this because in most cases, we have romanticized ideas about the industry, how it works and the stereotypes that place certain people in specific boxes because of their biological make-up. Through this festival and the discussions that were offered, it was made clear that finding your voice, pushing boundaries and staying steadfast in your pursuit for greatness is needed in order to navigate through the industry. There is also a need to keep one’s voice as honest, pure and as sincere as possible because honesty is the responsibility of all storytellers.
In its very essence, I think it’s important to note that the underlying tone in everything that was shared, was that the onus is on us to not only solidify our space in the industry but to create an industry free from prejudice, discrimination as well as an industry worth writing home about. To paraphrase Mmabatho Kau, it is up to us to plant our own trees, find our niche in the market and run with it. We can’t sit around and wait for the system to be in our favour. I can only speak for myself when I say that the festival was a success. My reasons being that the NFVF managed to create much needed conversations around film, navigating the industry as well as finding yourself in the noise and honing in on what’s important. As if that was not enough, they managed to bring locally produced films to the people, which further reiterated the notion that we need to go out there and create a culture of supporting local films but also the fact that there’s nothing wrong with pulling your resources together to create your own body of work.
The lessons, guidance and the need to rethink the film industry that came from the festival was worth way more than any amount of money can buy and it’s important that we take notice of such events that have the impetus to put us in spaces that can get you one step closer to reaching your goal. It all starts with passion, followed by an idea and then execution but most importantly, it all starts with you.