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Meet the Judges - Wessel van Huyssteen, 2018

Third-time PPC Imaginarium judge and filmmaker Wessel van Huyssteen shares his thoughts on the state of the South African film industry.

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  • When you judged the PPC Imaginarium film category previously, you were excited by the entrants’ willingness to address issues of socio-political importance. In your view, what issues are South African filmmakers grappling with in 2018?

I think socio-political and environmental issues need continued interrogation, but that is only one side of the coin. Filmmakers must find their unique voices and establish a relationship with local audiences, and that does not always mean overt political engagement. It means being able to tell human stories.

PPC Imaginarium

 

  • How are film and television shaping South Africa in terms of the social, cultural and political landscapes?

I am constantly surprised by the risks local filmmakers take in tackling contentious issues considering the limited availability of funds and the risk of box-office failure. The current controversy around the film Inxeba is a great example. The fact that this film was censored by the Film and Publications Board is worrying and exposes the cultural tensions in our country and the ignorance around what constitutes free speech and artistic expression.

 

  • You have produced work in a number of mediums, including writing and watercolour painting. What makes film special or important to you?

Film is by its nature a more democratic medium. It can reach a large and diverse audience. It is no wonder films are seen as potent tools for propaganda and education. With that said, it also holds the potential to bring enormous joy to people’s lives.

 

  • What is the biggest challenge you face as a filmmaker in the South African film industry?

Getting funding for worthy projects is extremely difficult in South Africa. There is very little interest in controversial or experimental filmmaking as far as all our local broadcasters are concerned. Broadcasters are interested in easy-format studio talk shows and soap operas, made on minimal budgets and with little production value. For a South African documentary or film to break into the international market is very tough, as the marketing of products at international film festivals is prohibitively expensive. Then there is also the issue that South Africa is one of those so-called ‘shitholes’ (as US President Donald Trump infamously claimed) in which foreign audiences are not that interested any longer.

 

  • What role do you see the PPC Imaginarium Awards playing in the growth and development of the SA film industry?

This award’s most important contribution is that it offers young filmmakers the opportunity to develop their skills while encouraging experimentation. It offers them the opportunity to respond freely to a brief in terms of genre and style while giving them financial and mentoring support. The film remains the property of the filmmaker, allowing them to kick-start their careers and submit it to festivals and broadcasters. Several of the past films have been shown at local and international film festivals and won accolades.

 

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