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FEAR AND LOATHING ON AN INDIE FILM SET

by Charles Harry Mackenzie / 09.10.2014

South African ‘youth’ are dazed and disillusioned. Our history prior to democracy is well documented, yet our future lies before us as a blank and shapeless blob. Is there a South African dream for us to chase, or are we just hopping from one high to another? Sibs Shongwe-La Mer may not have all the answers, but his film – Territorial Pissings – is asking these questions. I went on a journey to document his pursuits and ended up following them myself. For better or worse, I don’t yet know.

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Now I am going to start this piece just as any other mediocre journalist of our time would, by using flowery descriptions and observations prior to the actual start of the story.

4:20 pm, 2nd July 2014
I arrived at the Zebra Inn, one of the final shooting locations for Territorial Pissings about an hour and a half early. I placed my buttocks on a stool and began counting coins… I desperately wanted a beer but the choice wasn’t up to me, it was up to my wallet. I was R2 short of a black label, but the barmaid wouldn’t have it and paid the remainder.

“I take care of my customers,” she said with a smile that would warm even the coldest prude.

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On my right sat a tall black man in a cashmere sweater and non-descript jeans. From his cell phone conversation I discerned that he too was here to shoot something:

“No, I’m doing stills again on the 11th…”

“Stills” is film-speak for production stills (photographs) – not that this gives you much insight.

After what seemed like forever, I introduced myself to the gentleman and almost immediately forgot his name (a bad habit of mine). I told him that I was here to write a feature; he told me he was here to do the ‘EPK’. A quick Google search told me that EPK stood for ‘electronic press kit’. Again, I doubt that provides you with much insight, but dear reader take solace in the fact that when it comes to the inner workings of the film industry, I am just about as clueless as you.

Mr EPK contemplated (out loud) the sheer ridiculousness of the location, which was chock full of just about every kind of animal head mounted on every wall, which in turn were arbitrarily painted sickly colours of purple, yellow and lime green.

“What the actual fuck…?”

I managed to refrain from commenting, because in truth I was the grandson of a man, with eerily similar perversions when it came to decorating walls with the heads of helpless animals.

'Colonialism' meets ‘mod'

‘Colonialism’ meets ‘mode’

Buffalo heads, zebra heads… almost every kind of animal head imaginable, gave us dead, shameful blank gazes. Even when we turned our heads away, I was aware that they were watching. There were even a couple turtle shells dotted across the room.

“They aren’t real,” Mr EPK noted. “I went up and touched them, they are made of wood,” he added.

For the next half hour we continued to shoot the shit as we indifferently shifted our gazes between the soccer (Belgium was playing A’MURCA) and the security camera, which would notify us when people actually started arriving. “I fucking hate Americans,” he would quip every 10 minutes or so, as if he was oblivious to the fact that I had heard him say the very same thing a million times before.

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Mr EPK (far right) sits with  bar regulars.

Mr EPK (far right) sits with bar regulars

4:34 pm
If I am to be a successful journalist (ha), I would be inclined to stop rambling for a moment, and provide you (dear reader) with some background on Sibs. At 22 years old, Sibs Shongwe-La Mer is the South African bastard child of both Jay Gatsby and Hunter S Thompson. Just like the two men before him, Sibs is an idealist, except he’s hell bent on chasing the ‘South African dream’, not the American one. Ignoring the fact that one can argue extraneously as to weather or not the American dream actually existed, Sibs is pretty set on the fact that the time for South African youth is now and that there is in fact a dream to be had.

I won’t enter the pointless debate over whether or not there is such a thing as a ‘South African celebrity’ because we are most defiantly not the naïve whores that the Americans are to their Hollywood elite. In truth, the lives of South Africans in the entertainment industry provide us with just about as much interest as the intensive study of milk bacteria. With that said, the trajectory of Sibs Shongwe-La Mer is a refreshing change, offering us a different perspective of our nation that is not jaded by politics and fakery.

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Colleen Balchin (left) plays Tanya.

Colleen Balchin (left) plays Tanya

Kamogelo Moloi plays the character of Bogsi: "I play  Tanya’s lover-boy,” he says .

“I play Tanya’s lover-boy,” says Kamogelo Moloi, who plays the character of Bogsi

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“This movie shows the state of the youth – black kids, white kids. How we are,” explains Kamolego. “Our parents fought the fight… my father was in exile. But our job is different, our job is to fight a new fight… to look to the future.”

5:20pm
Sibs, his producer Ellias and a handful of others arrived on set. A sign on the exterior entrance of the inn stated clearly: “Bar closed after 5pm, filming is taking place,” but that message was vehemently ignored as thirsty men continued to pour in, outnumbering the small cast that occupied the fringes of the bar. Mr EPK and I introduced ourselves to Ellias who in turn introduced us to Sibs himself. He shook my hand, asked me how I was and then quickly shot off. I didn’t take offence, far from it, that man started working the minute his feet touched the dusty ceramic floor.

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Sibs smokes Peter Stuyvesant Blue. I don’t know ANYBODY in my age group that touches those things. When we can afford it we shoot for Malboro or even Camel but stuyvy… no. If I was a better writer, perhaps I would make an analogy about how his cigarette choice indicates that he is ‘old at heart’ or something along those lines… but I’m not, so, oh well.

5:36pm
S’bo Nene, who plays the ‘drunk shit talker’ was the first to get his makeup done. I began to take photographs, and I almost immediately spotted the WEIRD inside of him. It was living deep down, and it was my job to summon the demon out of him.

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5:45pm
For every cast member that spilled in, they were matched by about three crew members. The actors lounged around talking shit, soaking in the atmosphere whilst the crew members immediately began work.

Don’t mistake that as a criticism, that’s just how things were.

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5:50pm
Large florescent lights are set up opposite a table adorned with beer bottles and wine glasses. The first scene of the night to be shot takes place here, where a group of depraved adolescents are to drunkenly discuss the ‘etiquette’ of a blowjob.

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6:25pm
The set is ready, and people are asked to clear the area. Before actual shooting begins we are all told to be quiet: “Please guys, we want to record ambient noise so don’t say or do anything.”

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Almost two minutes go by, and already people begin shuffling their feet and whispering. If there is any indication that our youth is restless, this is it – the fact that we can’t even sit still for two fucking minutes (even when we’re getting paid to do so).

30 more seconds pass by, the boom is dropped, and recording is complete. “Ok guys, thanks that was great.”

“Eish… I was SO CLOSE to farting,” says a coloured man wearing a leather jacket, standing behind the bar. The entire room fills with laughter, and even Sib wears a quick smile.

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Sibs is a hard-working man, not taking a moment’s rest on set, bar a few causal conversations here and there. I doubt many understand the insidious torture of an over active mind…

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Long after the set is cleared, and wrap has been called
The film will continue to roll,
Inside his pink juiced up brain,
Fed by coffee and nicotine,
This entity will mull over,
What went wrong,
&
What went right,
Again and again
A broken record of contradictions.

I am sure many envy his fame (myself included), just as the citizens of west/east egg did for Jay Gatsby and his fantastical parties.

But at the end of the day, not many care to look any deeper, and thus would not grasp the massive weight of such a grandiose dream. Long after Territorial Pissings is finished, Sibs will continue to chase that ‘green light’ in various iterations well into his life. Dreams exist in fantasy, and the pursuit of them is the closest one will ever get to fully realising them. Fulfilling one won’t turn off the noise; it will only increase the volume. Near the end of the novel, The Great Gatsby, Jay got Daisy back – a dream he had had forever. But he quickly realised that his fantasy was far more real than reality could ever be. And he died because of it.

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*Images © Charles Harry Mackenzie

**Tune in next week for Part II.

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RESPONSES (5)
  1. Oh Lord says:

    Dude stop writing. If there’s anything else you wanna do or have the slightest interest in, then rather pursue that.

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  2. Charles Mackenzie says:

    All I have EVER wanted to be is a great writer 🙁
    http://altlitpress.com/post/91365023858/ego-dick

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  3. Anonymous says:

    You have a way to go, kid. Gatsby? Hunter Thomson? Yeesh. My first suggestion would be to lay off the Great Writer Fridge Poetry. My second suggestion would be to reign yourself in a bit. Good writing, especially good journalism, should tell the reader about more than the writer’s fetid inner life. Unless you actually are Hunter Thomson, in which case pass the whiskey.

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  4. TheFactIs says:

    Keep writing and we’ll keep reading. Fuck people who’s judgement of themselves bleeds into judgement of others.; don’t let them smother your creativity in the same way they smother their own.

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  5. Roberto says:

    Bonjour .!!! j adore ce que vous faites seul ou avec votre grpoue et la mise en valeur de votre e9pouse est magnifique un monde magique, beau, fluide et joyeux .je reave de venir vous voir en vrai peut eatre e0 Lyon ou e0 Paris je suis cela de pre8s !!! belle et longue route e0 vous !!!! Mary

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