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ZIFF film review: The Creators
After a week's worth of movie massacres, HIV dramas and other African woes, I was lamenting that Africa will only brace itself for (yet more) bad PR by it's growing film industry. Negative media coverage of the continent (an enormous 95%) seems to work like a positive feedback system, inducing journalists and artists to (again) focus on grim, dark material because that's what African stories are... supposedly.
Not so; The Creators proves that beyond colonialism, genocide, slavery and all the other tragedies that comprise Africa's shadow, there is a dazzling constellation of talent here that refuses to be broken by this heritage. Featured are street artist Faith47, Sweat.X and Blaq Pearl (performance and spoken word poets), Emile (Hip Hopper) Warongx (singer/songwriter) and opera singer Mthetho.
The various luminaries and revolutionaries of Africa's past are acceded by people fighting their realities with art as their weapon of choice. In a scene where a member of Warongx explains all the local kids are playing with toy guns, he demands more music in Africa, begging the world to send shiploads of instruments in lieu of "guns and cheap clothes".
His weapon is a guitar. It's a powerful statement, coming from two men living in a neighbourhood filled with real guns and murder. That this documentary transcended the grim side of township life is testament to the filmmakers. They sifted out so much joy from the violence of South Africa.
History isn't ignored in The Creators; all the issues are still there. We see archive footage of protesters being gunned down with teargas by the apartheid government. We hear tales of violence, memoirs of deceased young radicals that pushed the creative boundaries, murder, political imprisonments, and the daily struggle for survival in South Africa.
But The Creators captured the positivity coming out from all these young people beautifully. It proved true art is not restrained by politics or religion - or even life. Expression in this sphere is unrestrained. The film proves that anyone's vision must developed into it's full artistic potential. If there is a message to be told by modern South Africa, it's that art will save your sanity.
A guru-like B-Boy talks about his mission to get South African kids breakdancing "not to make heaps of money like Jay Z… but to find yourself. To battle yourself until you're no longer trapped in this physical form." A beautiful and brutally honest Blaq Pearl says that as a teenager she didn't go out drinking but "stayed home to write." Another singer refuses to cry-poor and declares "We never thought we were poor until they told us."
Aid-culture and colonialism are themes lying beneath the music and pictures. It addresses African and European mentalities, the introduction of Western religion ("You talk of Jerusalem, why can't you talk of Cape Town?"); degradation ("inferiority was instilled in our minds long ago") and ambition- ("Africans are hundreds of miles away from where they've supposed to be.")
Film makers should take some hints from this film. It told the story of South Africa on a fresh reel. I don't know if Warongx's song moved him, or rather the plethora of scenes depicting young Africans (from all backgrounds) liberating themselves through their art forms; but the man that interrupted the last scenes of The Creators yesterday by bopping in the rows clearly needed to move.
Ergo, I think the films director/editors -Laura Gamse and Jacques de Villiers- should regard their work as a success. It's not everyday filmmakers that make someone dance in the aisles before the credits roll.
This film should awaken the artistic generation living here, and motivate African youth to aim for true expression (regardless of how inconvenient that expression is to the rest of us...)
Destruction is passe. Africa is creating.