Orania: You Were Never Ready

In this shocking documentary filmed by daredevil documentary filmmaker Rehad Desai shows us a part of South Africa which separates itself from the ‘rainbow nation’ phenomenon; a white’s-only community.

Ten years into a democratic South Africa, we are taken to a community in the Northern Cape, South Africa, that has chosen to be independent of the racial integration that has occurred since 1994. This being in 2004, the same year in which South Africa celebrated the announcement that the 2010 World Cup would be hosted by our rainbow nation.

Filmed in Standerton and Orania, this documentary seeks to investigate what it means to be white. This is done by utilising aspects of the Interactive or Participatory Mode of film-making. In adopting this mode, Rehad Desai interviews members of the white Afrikaner community about what it means to be white and proceeds to gently challenge their collective anti-integration mindset. His adoption of the Interactive Mode of film-making is helpful in the establishment of the point-of-view in this story.  Desai constructs the narrative by using the things that are said by the participants. This story is told using Desai narrating voice that prompts us to ask questions whilst simultaneously lightly expressing his views on the findings that he makes on his journey. the narrative is thus told from the point of view of the participants who are filmed and interviewed.

There is a story-telling technique technique that the film-maker used brilliantly, in this documentary – juxtaposition. There is a part where he uses images that are contradictory to what an Afrikaner is saying. In this part, he features archive footage of Apartheid security police beating black people, whilst an Afrikaner farmer speaks of the rich history and culture that has shaped the Afrikaans community into a proud nation.

One of the ethical problems that a filmmaker can face in making an interactive documentary is that of informed consent. generally, the participants appear to be well aware of the fact that they are being filmed and the reason why they are being filmed. I noted this in the fact that he interviews these participants in their natural spaces. There is a female participant whom he, as a dark-skinned individual in a whites-only community, interviews in the front seat of a car. There is a part, however, where Desai interviews drunk Afrikaner males and asks a question that has one of them respond with “Is jy mal?” and another attempt to beat him. One of these gentleman –  in a sober state – invites him for an interview in his living space.

In terms of sound, it sounds like he mostly used a directional microphone for his outdoor interviews, where he did not use a tripod for his camera.

Now, you may have read this entire blog post wondering what I meant when I called this documentary film-maker a daredevil. I personally do not think there are many dark-skinned journalists who would dare live in a whites-only area – even in a democratic South Africa – and engage with racist individuals in such a subtly confrontational manner. I am beyond impressed by how rich the content is.

This is a piece all South Africans should watch. It is thought-provoking and very evocative. Go ahead. Take a look.

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