Web designer: Chevon Erasmus Porter & Ingrid Martens
If South Africa is the economic hub of the continent, then Johannesburg is it’s bank vault; a magnet therefore, of migrants from all corners of the continent, searching for a better life – a slice of the “African dream”. And planted in the heart of downtown Joburg, a majestic blip on it’s turbulent landscape, The Ponte - iconic, rotund, infamous, feared by most Jo’burgers – Africa’s tallest apartment building, a towering 54 floors, housing 4,400 men, women and children. Some South African, but many from across Africa’s vast borders, the Ponte is Little Africa (image above).
“Long since a film has touched me this much.” Johannes Grober, Africa in Motion in Scotland
Shot painstakingly over five years, until the expulsion of tenants for more lucrative property investment, and a month shy of South Africa’s xenophobic attacks, AFRICA SHAFTED: UNDER ONE ROOF harmoniously, humorously and lyrically, takes the viewer from the beyond the windows of a concrete tower, revealing the humanity behind this often misunderstood and reviled community.
Simple in its concept, AFRICA SHAFTED: UNDER ONE ROOF is shot entirely within the confines of a lift. The lens becomes a confessional or simply a witness to snippets of people’s lives, on their micro journeys to and from their homes. Limited by the time a person enters and leaves the lift, time itself becomes a vacuum. What people reveal to the camera in moments, is often surprising, poignant, witty and sometimes shocking. Conversations with each other, or simply watching the watcher, are completely natural. Nothing is set up. Nothing is forced.
“My hands down favorite doc in the festival this year.” Hellura Lyle, New York Doc Watchers
Over months, some develop a relationship with the camera, enjoying the funnel of the camera as a listener. Others remain still – the subtlety of body language is enough to understand joy, or pain, that may never be revealed. The lift allows a diverse number of people to enter the lives of the viewer, from all over the continent, under one space. It also forces for unique interaction and conversation to take place between people from different countries. As their stories unfold, some people’s prejudices naturally disappear as they talk to each other within the space of this communal, claustrophobic vehicle.
This reinforces the universal message, that through dialogue and understanding, respect starts to take root. The viewer ultimately, becomes an active participant rather than a passive observer. They are forced to invade the space of people, and at times, uncomfortably so, with the vulnerability, resilience and strength of each individual that appears in front of the camera. Storytelling doesn’t get much more up close and in-your-face than this.
“A truly humane and entertaining look at our continent personified by its complex and beautiful people." Akin Omotoso, SA & Nigerian filmmaker
Reflecting the mood and vibe of the continent, the film is supported throughout with rich tapestry of music that has and continues to be, the thriving heartbeat of Africa’s soul. Harnessing both famous and lesser-known artists from all over, including the voices of refugees and migrant workers themselves, this rhythm complements beautifully the tempo of what is being watched. The music completes the film and fulfills its intention compellingly - a film not of containment but ultimately, one of liberation.
AFRICA SHAFTED: UNDER ONE ROOF is a film for now. By capturing the views and opinions of ordinary Africans who have been seen as scary, undeserving, criminal, drug sellers by so may in post-apartheid South Africa. This unique experience allows for a deeper, and more comparative understanding of the South African and the African condition.