Rehad Desai – South Africa

Slater Jewell-Kemker – Canada

Rehad Desai

He is a former political exile from South Africa who returned to his country in 1990. He entered the film industry in 1996. He owns his own film/TV company, Uhuru Productions. He is also actively engaged in the Campaign against Climate Change and participates as a speaker at various conferences throughout South Africa and has directed a few films that focus on the issue.

South African filmmaker Rehad Desai directed the documentary “Miners Shot Down.” It contains compelling police and news footage interspersing interviews with striking miners and lawyers defending the miners against the charge of murder at the commission of enquiry into the massacre. The One World festival of Human Rights Documentaries held the world premiere in early March 2014. The film specifically maps a police massacre of striking workers at the Marikana mine in South Africa in 2012. 34 people died. Proceeds at various arthouses that show the film go to the Marikana Support Campaign.

His film tells a different story than the one that the media shares about the massacre. In the news, clips lead viewers only to see miners rushing toward police. In his film, which he shot in sequence in real time, shows miners returning home after being persuaded to stand down, then surrounded by police wagons and forced to rush like trapped animals fearing for their lives.

How the story is portrayed is crucial in considering what angle you are coming from when considering any account of a disaster.

Rock drillers are considered to be the lowest in the mining hierarchy and make up most of the protest. They work under horrible conditions and get paid extremely low wages. They demand an increase in pay throughout the negotiations. Some die as a result of defending their own interests.

Rehad Desai found it difficult to swallow that the massacres occurred under democracy.

So how did he deal with his feelings of disillusionment?

“It was disillusioning, but it was also affirming, that actually we can only be our own liberators. We must never stop being alert. We must never entrust our liberation to another class – and the national liberation movement is essentially a movement for the middle class and the ruling class of South Africa.”

His previous documentary is called “Born Into Struggle.” It garnered several awards and screened internationally.

The documentary is described by Documentary Educational Resources (DER) as an intimate journey mapped out by the scars etched into his family’s life from having a father who was intensely involved in politics. His father was deeply involved in the political struggle for freedom in South Africa but as a father, he was emotionally unavailable.

He directed “Smoke in the Sky” in 2011. It focuses on how climate change is impacting small farmers. Three women from Malawi, Lesotho and South Africa describe their struggle resulting from unpredictable rainfall. Additionally, he directed “The Weather Gods” in 2011 which focuses on the effects of the global temperature rise on the African continent, where it is felt intensely. Pretty prolific!

He also directed “It Happened to Me” in 2008 as well as a number of other highly acclaimed films.  

Continuing his civic responsibilities, he still participates in South African days of action and at rallies against police brutality. If that weren’t enough, he is also the director of the Tri-Continental Film Festival. 

Critics note that his socially-focused work shows that he has chosen a side that he believes, while looking through a more critical eye at police actions and attempts to claim self defense. I love his focus on social and environmental justice topics and that he brings attention to community voices. It’s great to see him making documentaries to add to the dialogue. Born into the struggle, he’s making a difference.

Sources: Artslink.co.za, Times Live, Prague Post, Radio Praha, Campaign Against Climate Change, Youtube, Vimeo, Daily Maverick, Culture Unplugged

Slater Jewell-Kemker

Slater Jewell-Kemker is an award-winning 20-year-old movie maker. She lived in Los Angeles until she was 10 and then moved to Canada with her family. She believes that to adapt to climate change, we must change everything to create that just, caring world that we’ve dreamed of.

Slater’s film, “An Inconvenient Youth” features kids living on the front lines of climate change and the movement to create a sustainable future. Her passion for preventing climate change led her to explore filmmaking. She also teaches filmmaking online and in person to empower kids to take action and raise their voices to make a positive shift.

Here’s a great interview featuring Slater where she focuses on why she thinks it is important that kids take part in the climate change movement to have a say in their lives.

Her sense of urgency about the topic has propelled her forward. So how did she get her start? She started making short films as part of the THE MY HERO Project. In March 2007, she received an Earth Trustee Award at the United Nations in New York for her environmental activism in filmmaking. When asked at that time what the biggest environmental issue was, she said, dirty oil.

“My first uncensored look at the Tar Sands took place a few years ago. At the time I was working on a short film about the environment and our need to act now. I contacted the Pembina Institute in Alberta and Greenpeace, and they graciously sent me footage of the Tar Sands, deforestation and other environmental calamities. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I couldn’t believe that Albertans would approve of such utter destruction, such devastation. It looked like the moon, an oozing, death soaked image of the moon.”

Her short films “Painting Peace” and “Peace Begins” were both finalists at the Toronto International Film Festival’s kid division. “Peace Begins’ opened for the Oscar Nominated Documentary “War Dance” at the Traveling World Community Film Festival in Canada. In 2008, her environmental short “Don’t Give It All Away” won first place in the Music Video Category at the My Hero Film Festival in LA.

She was the Canadian representative at the Youth Environmental G8 Summit in Kobe, Japan in May of 2008. She’s even been recognized by the United Nations and Cannes. Oh and she dabbles in architecture! Slater is working with Architecture for Humanity to develop a prototype off-the-grid facility for small communities most affected by climate change.

She’s celebrated by many who are absolutely enthralled with her vision for a better world. In more great news, she won the 2014 Student Filmmaker Award for her movie “Inconvenient Youth” at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival.

I love that she’s not dissuaded by those who don’t think that taking care of the environment is an important part of our lives. I’m glad that’s she spreading the word about climate change creatively!

Sources: Forbes, SBMS Teen Press Children’s Dream Awards, Three Dot Dash Initiative of the We Are Family Foundation, MyHero.com, Vimeo, SeaVoices, Sierra FoodWineArt, TeenKidsNews, myKawartha.com



2 thoughts on “Filmmakers

  1. great stuff
    very inspiring!!!

    Posted by Veronica "Roni" Jacobi | March 20, 2014, 7:51 pm


  1. Pingback: Roll that film…and the credits | Writing Climate Change Back into History - March 20, 2014

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