German-South African film director about his work and Southern Africa
(Editor: Ghassan Abid)
Teboho Edkins, born in 1980 in the United States of America, grown up in Lesotho, Germany, South Africa as well as France, is film director and following the career of his renowned father Don Edkins, one of the most famous film producers of South Africa.
In Cape Town he studied Arts and he enhanced his course of studies with post graduations in France and Germany. Teboho Edkins documentaries are characterized by sociolcritical bias, for which he has taken several awards. In addition, he took part at umpteen film festivals, such as FID Marseille, Festival panafricain du cinéma et de la télévision de Ouagadougou (FESPACO), International Filmfestival Innsbruck, Vision du Reel Nyon, Tampere Short Film Festival or Berlinale. Teboho Edkins is explaining to our South Africa web portal his job-related visions and documentaries on South Africa.
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: We welcome on „SÜDAFRIKA – Land der Kontraste“, the German gateway to South Africa, the in Berlin living filmmaker Teboho Edkins. You concentrate in your work on documentaries with sociocritical messages on South African issues. In „Ask me I’m positive“, „True Love“, or „Looking Good“ you focused your productions on HIV. What are the reasons to debate this pandemic?
Anwer: The HIV pandemic, especially in Lesotho at the time when I made my first film, Ask me I’m positive, was a monster that could simply not be ignored, it was all prevalent but at the same time invisible –not understood. Just image- Lesotho in 2004 was a county where almost 30% of the population was infected with HIV, but only a handful of people were public about their status and three of these were the protagonists in the film. There was (and still is to an extent is) such confusion and prejudice about the disease that it was the only topic I felt I could make a film about.
What helped make the film possible was that it was part of a really exciting revolutionary series of 35 films titled, STEPS for the future, on HIV by Southern African filmmakers that had been launched in 2000.
In my other film True Love, I don’t really deal with the HIV pandemic as such, but it so happens that the character in Lesotho is HIV, so its not about him being HIV positive but rather about a person that happens to be HIV positive experiencing love and sex. (That he is HIV positive is the status quo, I am trying to show how beyond having the virus one lives a normal life- and I think this is really important to understand especially in the context of Southern Africa where so many people are infected).
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: In „Gangster Project 1, you are taking a new topic with regard to crime in South Africa. Are you changing your view on other social challenges?
Answer: Well I am not really a political activist, so I make films on topics that I find relevant and interesting, and that I want to explore filmically. After the HIV films for instance I made Gangster Project 1, a sort of deconstruction of a Gangster Rap video with real gangsters and then I also made Kinshasa 2.0 a short film about democracy and the internet using second life, a virtual world …
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: Your new movie will be handling with crime in South Africa, too. What’s the exactly title of your newest production, when it will be come out in Germany and what it is about?
Answer: The working title of my latest film is Gangster Project . (its sort of picks up on the idea of Gangster Project 1). Briefly it is a feature length half-fiction half documentary Gangster film shot in Cape Town, South Africa.. The basic story is a young white person wanting to make a perfect gangster film, without really knowing what gangsters are, he meets various gangsters, finally casts what he believes are the perfect gangsters for his film, hangs out with them and pretty soon finds their life uninspiring and boring, the violence they commit petty and dirty so he starts to instigate acts of violence himself (all in the spirit of making his gangster film), and so paradoxically grows closer to them and understands them as people with real fears, too frightened to leave their house…
© Teboho Edkins (third one from left) with actors of his movie "Gangster Project"
We are still in the postproduction phase of this film, so it will only be properly finished, that at is colour graded, mixed etc end of November. We will then initially launch it onto the film festival circuit, including festivals in Germany and then perhaps a television station might buy it or it might show in a small cinema here and there for a short time…. its early days yet.
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: How do you would like to describe the current crime situation in South Africa?
Answer: I am not an expert on crime in South Africa but the statistics all say its one of the most violent countries in the world, has one of the highest murder rates, rape rates etc.
I do understands though that the crime is very uneven (South Africa is famous as the land of contrasts no? ) meaning that you are much, much more likely to be killed or raped if you are poor and live in a township, so the crime has to be understood geo politically, within the political apartheid context of South Africa. Which is why in my film the white boy leaves his relatively safe neighbourhood to go where the violence is and is consumed by it…
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: Which experience has you already done with German partners in respect of film distribution. Your documentaries are targeting explicit South African problems, so the question arises if your arts getting a good feedback by German cinemas, broadcastings and spectators?
Answer: That is an interesting question. I studied at a post grad art institution in France and did a post grad film school in Berlin so even if I made films in Southern Africa I often did it through European Institutions and funding and I would like to think that if the film is good as a film, then the location is not as important as the way one goes about making the film and the filmmaking process make it interesting beyond its location.
So in fact my films have had most of their successes and distribution at European films festivals like Oberhausen Short film festival, Visions Du Reel, Leipzig, Berlinale, Marseille etc as well as European television stations like ARTE, YLE, TV2..
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: Will it be imaginable to produce one day movies from genre entertainment/ science fiction, such as your South African colleague Neill Blomkamp with District 9? These movies are very successful according to turnover, but their are losing in many cases the real message to the public. Do you agree with this opinion?
Answer: Its often true that the larger a budget a film has, the more it is controlled by the producers or the studios and leaves the director less and less control. And I don’t’ think I would ever want to make a film over which I don’t have control, even (or especially) if it’s a Slasher Zombie set in a nature reserve..
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: Which are your next cinematic ideas and will you shoot a film with your father Don Edkins, who is counting to one of the most famous film producers from South Africa?
Answer: In fact I am currently working on my next idea, (which is partly why I am in South Africa as I write this), but would rather keep quite about if for the moment, its still very half baked. And yes working with my father Don Edkins, – he produced my first two documentary films, was really rewarding (even if it made my mother a bit irritated that is all we would talk about, and bring the stress to the dinner table) and I would love to work make more films with him.
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: Teboho Edkins, thank you very much for your time to this interview!
Teboho Edkins at „Berlinale Talent Campus“:
2010sdafrika-Artikel published on artsouthafrica.com: