SA Underground Cinema
The Pandrogeny Manifesto
Director: Aldo Lee & Dionysos Andronis, Short Film, 12 min, France, 2007
Paris-resident South African filmmaker Aldo Lee teams up with Paris-resident Greek filmmaker Dionysos Andronis (a festival guest in 2005) to interview a remarkable pair of counter culture icons. Genesis P-Orridge was the brains behind the music groups Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. Hounded out of the UK he took his dissection of society to Paris and New York. Deciding on the assumption of pandrogeny, which is the double-sexed state of the God Head he, and his lover Ladye Jaye undertook extensive surgery to assume the characteristics of both sexes. In this film Genesis reads the manifesto of the Divine Androgyne.
Name SA Underground Cinema
Date Fri 18 Aug 12:00
Director: Anton Kotze, Short Film, 7 min, South Africa, 2013
Climaxx is an atmospheric, elemental short film about ecstasy – female ecstasy… waves upon waves of ocean beat upon an concrete stairway descending into the sea. a womans’ echoing voice gradually rises above the ocean swells, rising in sexual euphoria as the organic flow encourages her sexual pleasures, on and on, rythmically driving her along to climax.
South African filmmaker Anton Kotze’ was tutored by his filmmaker-photographer father from an early age. He has has worked for over twenty years in the feature film and television industry, mostly covering the arts and education.
He started his professional life as a newspaper crime reporter and photographer at the age of nineteen before leading a nomadic life around southern Africa for a number years, during which he was jailed for five months in an African dictator-state under suspicion of being a spy.
The Dead Trilogy
Director: Anton Kotze, Short Film, 15 min, South Africa, 2014
A premiere of the new work by Cape Town’s master of subliminal cinema, Anton Kotze. Zen gardens of dead trees; bathing birds in quicksand, flying backwards and upside down and a gothic journey through the cement gardens and dwelling places of the fallen angels, set to music by Diamanda Galas.
Director: Christiaan Pretorius, Short Film, 15 min, South Africa, 1979
Described by one viewer as an animated expressionist painting. A simple portrayal of a young man poised between two apparent choices: an undressing girl and a masked death figure. A significant symbol which can be fitted to a variety of personal interpretations – a frozen tableau that can be read according to the viewer’s personal mythology.
Director: Christiaan Pretorius, Short Film, 15 min, South Africa, 1979
A deconstruction of the conventional murder mystery, designed, in the intent to of the director to frustrate audience expectations by turning the camera away whenever anything important is about to happen. The ominous stamping of names on a murder file create a tension of something about to happen – the traditional narrative sense – but the narrative is frustrated by the inclusion of obviously discarded footage and close-ups of parts of the actors bodies.
An introduction to the South African underground film scene
by Trevor Steele Taylor
South Africa in the seventies to the nineties must have appeared to the attuned ears of artistically-inclined people in the UK as a wasteland dominated by a Fascist White State, bolstering up a hideous national policy known as ‘Apartheid’ whose control of the arts was all-pervasive and administrated under the eyes of Censorship and the Stasi-like Security Police.
The perception is not incorrect but the chinks in the armour of State control were surprisingly legion.
As part of the Arts policy of the Nationalist regime was the creation of Arts Councils in the major centres who would be generously funded to produce high quality theatre, opera, ballet and the like. With acronyms such as CAPAB (Cape Performing Arts Board), PACOFS (Performing Arts Council of the Orange Free State), NAPAC (Natal Performing Arts Council) and PACT (Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal) these councils were presented with newly-built theatres such as the Nico Malan Theatre in Cape Town, the State Theatre in Pretoria and the superbly renovated Playhouse in Durban. Theses theatres were equipped to a world class standard and this combined with an active European theatre going community in South Africa resulted in many top class British actors – Graham Armitage, Kenneth Hendel, Peter J Elliot – relocating to South Africa. Many British stars of stage and screen such as Richard Warwick, Charles Hawtrey, Dai Bradley, Max Adrian, Patrick Magee and others graced the South African stages.
Italian born, multi-faceted artist Armando Baldinelli produced a stunning mural on the foyer wall of the State Theatre and the fact that it was fairly erotic was accepted by those in power as OK as it was Art.
A major moment for the South African theatre arts was the arrival of Dieter Rieble, a luminary of the German experimental theatre, an associate of both Peter Zadek and Peter Stein and, a bit of a Fassbinder in his own right. Rieble produced blood-drenched version of TITUS ANDRONICUS at the Nico Malan in Cape Town, a production which went down the annals of theatre history. For the political regime the presence of high-profile artists such as Rieble was all important in validating South Africa as a First World nation with well-honed artistic tastes.
Although acting against the wishes of the African National Congress (ANC) in exile who had instituted a Cultural Boycott on South Africa, artists such as Rieble were not politically naïve not necessarily dupes of the State but clearly believed that performance of ground-breaking work within the belly of the beast was far more valuable than withholding their favours.
This was equally true of filmmakers who, such as Lindsay Anderson, Nicolas Roeg, John Boorman, Bertrand Tavernier,
Fons Rademakers, Helma Sanders-Brahms and Reinhardt Hauff defied the Cultural Boycott, preferring to engage with South African audiences rather than be alienated from them. It was during this period that an important blow for theatrical independence took place with the establishment of the Space Theatre in Cape Town by a collective which included the actress Yvonne Bryce land and her husband, a superb photographer of performances and a film critic for a local newspaper Brian Astbury. The Space Theatre became a haven of underground activity in Cape Town and the springboard of playwrights such as Athol Fugard and Pieter Dirk Uys.
Some years later in Johannesburg the famous Market Theatre was established by a collective headed by Barney Simon an Mannie Mannim and shocked local audiences with an opening night performance of THE MARAT SADE which included performances by cast members such as John Hussey and Kenneth Hendel from the original Peter Brook London production.
It was in Cape Town though that another important birth in the underground took place – the establishment of avowedly Avant-Garde, Glass Theatre. When Dieter Rieble appeared amongst the Cape Town artistic glitterati, a group of theatrical rude boys – Christiaan Pretorius, John Nankin, Martinus Basson and others – tried to gain access to the opening night party for TITUS ANDRONICUS. Removed by order of the then CAPAB artistic director Pieter Fourie, the exiled artists performed an impromptu conflated version of SALOME on the theatre steps. Before they could be removed, Dieter Rieble took an interest in what they doing and after watching them he committed to helping them set up a theatre for experimental work. The Glass Theatre was born.
Pretorius, a prolific producer set about presenting an array of controversial work along with his faithful troupe and, as I remember, a fan of Fassbinder himself he undertook the making of two 16mm films shot on the short ends of a shoestring These films ANGST and DIE MOORD (The Murder) have become classics of South African underground filmmaking
In Johannesburg another young filmmaker/theatrical, Cedric Sundstrom was also attempting to make underground inroads into the film world. His hippie road movie SUMMER IS FOREVER was influenced by the ‘Electric Western’ ZACHARIAH and featured South Africa’s first cinematic acid trip. His THE HUNTER was awash with nudity (generally prohibited by the watchful Board of Censors) and SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN which featured a child being crucified by his playmates and questioned any concept of resurrection.
Rather than creating a movement, Pretorius and Sundstrom really stood alone. Pretorius was a sculptor in metal and he took this talent to great heights before relocating to Chicago. Sundstrom, after working as an assistant to British filmmakers such as Nicolas Roeg, John Hough and Val Guest, established himself
as a director with FAIR TRADE, SAXMAN and numbers 3 & 4 of the AMERICAN NINJA franchise. A formative influence in creating a space for independent filmmaking was created by the Weekly Mail & Guardian Film Festival, an initiative directed by Liza Key which ran from 1987 – 1994. The festival’s prime aim was to present to the South African public work which had been banned, was banned or prevented from screening in South Africa The festival’s history was marked by police intervention, attacks by the Right-Wing Paramilitary AWB, constant harassment and intimidation but the festival managed to create a strong activist position at a time when the changes in the country were moving fast. The festival attracted guests such as Melvin van Peebles, Costa Gavras, Paul Schrader and representatives from the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification). The festival also included a Short Film Competition.
Out of this competition came a plethora of interesting, challenging work including early film experiments by the artist William Kentridge. Many of the filmmakers who cut their teeth on these short films have since gone on to become award-winning filmmakers in the mainstream industry. Some have maintained an experimental mindset. One of the best of these is Aldo Lee.
Born in Durban, he studied at the University of the Witwatersrand and started his film career with a 30-minute movie called SACRIFICE which won ‘Best Film’ at the Weekly Mail & Guardian Film Festival. His film WHITE FARMERS, BLACK LAND won at the Festival of the Dhow Countries. He moved to France where he has made an array of short films including FUKUSHIMA MON AMOUR and a collaboration with Genesis P Orridge called THE PANDROGENY MANIFESTO. He has collaborated on art projects which have included a 4-screen fetishist reading of CINDERELLA starring a one-legged dancer called PORTRAIT EN CENDRILLON EN PIED. He has divided his time between France and Japan where he made his most recent film MIMI based on the fetish of Mimi kaki (ear-cleaning).
Anton Kotze is a truly independent voice in South African filmmaking and an avowedly solo operator. He was tutored by his filmmaker/photographer father and has worked for over twenty years in the feature film and television industry where he made the only documentary ever produced of South Africa’s Beat Poet Sinclair Beiles THE SACRED FIX. He started his career as a newspaper Crime reporter and photographer at the age of 19 before beginning a nomadic life through Africa (as a filmmaker documenting just about every African country) and Europe. He was jailed for 5 months in an African dictator-state under suspicion of being a spy. His film SAFARI OBSCURA draws heavily on footage shot in Africa and is, in his words, “the first Animist movie”.