NOTICE: The Emthonjeni Heritage Film Festival, a showcase of South African culture and history


Held over four days last week, the Emthonjeni Heritage Film Festival in Cape Town presented films of heritage and historical interest. Ling Shepherd attended the festival and found it educational and cathartic.

Film festivals in Cape Town are usually concentrated in Cape Town’s CBD. The Emthonjeni festival was held in Gugulethu, Khayelitsha and KwaLanga – historically black townships in Cape Town. Location is very important as it was accessible, and at best a taxi. If you live in Cape Flats, accessible transportation is essential. The festival was established in 2020 due to the lack of film opportunities and platforms for filmmakers based in the townships. Over the years, a rise of cinema in the townships of Cape Town has emerged. These filmmakers do not have access to film festivals and yet have continued to produce amazing films.

The aim of the festival was to celebrate the filmmakers of the townships and present their films through collective and individual expressions of heritage – exploring the importance of heritage, issues of identity, language, customary issues, leadership and relevant historical issues.

A call for applications was launched in March 2021, and the lineup was an impressive selection. Short films, feature films, documentaries and animation have been allowed to be submitted.

One of the films presented was Afrikaaps by Dylan Valley. Dylan Valley is an award-winning documentary and is currently a lecturer at the Center for Film and Media Studies. The Valley documentary follows a group of local artists as they trace the true roots of Afrikaans, while conceptualizing a stage production. It features musicians like Emile XY (from Black Noise), Jitsvinger and many others. The film unearths the true origins of Afrikaans and affirms the use of the many variants of Afrikaans spoken in South Africa.

Read more: Politics around identity: Afrikaans conceals many truths and evils

Buyelembo by Anelisiwe Tshapu was also one of the critically acclaimed films presented.

From a young age and growing up in the Eastern Cape, she immersed herself in the crafts of traditional beadwork, dancing, and everything associated with the Xhosa heritage. His short documentary Buyelembo explores returning to your roots and responding to the relevance of tradition in a modern era.

The complete program of the films presented can be viewed here.

The workshop element of the Emthonjeni Heritage Film Festival was amazing; covering script writing and funding for your project. A presentation by the National Video and Film Foundation (NFVF) was very well received. The NFVF gave a two-hour presentation on its partnership with Netflix – to fund the projects of new and established filmmakers. It covered all administration and submission requirements. It was perfect for anyone who wanted to learn more about the industry. The presentation also focused on the importance of funding film festivals.

Visiting the festival was a busy day. The only criticism would be that he needed more support from audiences and filmmakers. We need to engage in our communities to ensure the arts remain nurtured. Accessibility to the festival also marked me. As someone who lives in Cape Flats and regularly uses public transportation; it was refreshing not having to travel for hours to get to an event.

Gugulethu is ten minutes from my house. Emthonjeni is an isiXhosa word for fountain / water or spring. It refers to water from natural sources that provide life, education and health. This is exactly what the Emthonjeni Heritage Film Festival does; it nourishes the importance of the film which focuses on our collective heritage.

We look forward to the festival in 2022.

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