Monday, 15 June 2020

Interview with filmmaker Yakima Camille Waner

The Harvest will premier at the Straight-Jacket Guerrilla Film Festival

*How did you get into making films?
I studied my BA in Dramatic Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg South Africa. My passion was born for experimental and documentary filmmaking in my final year. When I left university I was work shadowed by some of the best film makers in wildlife documentary in the world. I was interested in a future in wildlife documentary, but I soon found my true calling in journalistic documentary showcasing stories where I can make a difference within social and environmental issues.                    

*What inspired you to make your movie?
My main inspiration to make The Harvest was the social conflict that surrounded the community within the documentary. I was concerned as an activist that the conflict was going to create war between the inside community and the surrounding communities. Once I researched the informal settlement Plastic City (a recycling camp +- 6000 people, +- 600 children) which is the main location in the documentary I found out that there was a crèche in the facility. Visiting the crèche and hearing the story behind the journey of the school’s formation got the ball rolling. I felt it was my duty to share the story of the children of this settlement, a story like no other. And also to share the story of the incredible brave women who made these children’s safety and education their priority with no income or aid from the government.                     

*How has your style evolved?
My style as a documentarian has evolved in technique, but my signature is still very prominent in all my films. I feel my audience has to experience the film through the subjects eyes, through their raw emotion physically and emotionally. Some of my footage is even intentionally cropped or extremely close up in such a way that makes you feel like you are seeing it through the diegetic voice in the scene and not a onlooker. It’s very important for me as the director to make my audience feel, I don’t believe in judging or creating villains in my narrative, I leave that to the audience.                                                   

*Tell us any strange or funny stories while making the film?
To be honest I have hundreds of stories because this documentary showcases multiple NPO’s which have become our daily lives. I feel the most extreme moments in the documentary really showed me the dangers of being a journalistic documentarian. When I personally am behind my camera I switch off to the outside world and the fact that my life is in danger becomes non important. I drove right into a xenophobic march with my NPO partner, its not even a matter of bravery, it’s just living out the scene and capturing it. You become a clean canvas which has to get the story in order to paint the picture. My partner freaked out when she saw the massive shot guns and bazookas and begged me to leave. I told her calmly to take my phone camera and continue to film and she kept the camera down as the people who passed were protesting and I yelled FILM! Only afterwards I really took in the real measures of what we did. I think most funny moments were off camera to keep high spirits in between filming very difficult matters and painful realities. Some strange and some what funny moments was when I first started to film the women recyclers while working in the landfills. It took me about a year to gain the communities trust while in the beginning the women would scream at me and chase me away. We would try and explain to them that this film is to share their voice and their identity. It was so frustrating that I couldn’t record during so many occasions because the quality of the footage was so unique when they were just being themselves and doing this service and playing such an important role in sustainability. I would have to enter with the camera set up, make sure no officials of the landfill see me as I wasn’t granted permission due to xenophobia and then see if they would openly share their story as I don’t believe in non consent footage. 

*The Misrule Film Movement & Pink8 manifesto bring what to mind?
I believe film is an expression of art & art is life and it will find it’s way to surface against all odds. The Misrule Film movement and the Pink 8 manifesto do exactly that. Art also creates emotion and response, some will connect and others will be repulsed, but it’s still art and no one can deny that.                             

*What can we expect from your next film?
I will be releasing a documentary on the 20th December 2020 which is International Human Solidarity Day. The documentary is called Indlala which means Hunger in Zulu. The documentary is based on The Harvest Covid 19 Relief Project which started a week before the National State Of Disaster was declared in South Africa due to the pandemic Covid 19. The documentary shares day to day experiences during Lockdown, moments of complete mayhem, moments of joy and tears, moments that we didn't know how we were going to continue feeding 200-300 starving people a day. The project aimed on supporting and creating relief for communities and minorities that would not receive any government support during the pandemic, especially for children and the elderly. What started as a limited support system that we agreed to aid only those stipulated became a day to day combat to find the means to help the influx of starving people who came to us begging for aid. The project also made masks and educated the masses on the devastating impact of the virus. Still today we are feeding hundreds of people and have received support and aid from so many wonderful organization and donations from individuals which keep us going.