How I made my first documentary in South Africa

18 Jul 2019 BY Hope

5 mins
How I made my first documentary in South Africa

Several years ago, filmmaker Hope Kemp - a former Into Film young reporter and One to Watch - made her first documentary; a look at life in South Africa following the passing of Nelson Mandela in 2013, and told us a bit about the filmmaking process. Each year 18 July marks Mandela Day, which serves honour the man that worked to end apartheid in South Africa and preserve his legacy.

You can watch Hope's film Goodbye Mandela above, and below Hope explains what drove her to make her film, and recounts her experience of filming on location in South Africa.

I have always adored moving images and screen stories, though in the past year I have developed a growing fascination for documentary filmmaking and all things real in cinema. I have just finished working on producing my own documentary short, Goodbye Mandela.

The film focuses on the new South Africa, 2014 marking both the 20 year anniversary of the first ever multiracial, democratic elections held in the country (1994), and a year since the passing of anti-apartheid revolutionary and former President, Nelson Mandela (5 December 2013).

I've been very fortunate to visit South Africa three times in my life. Cape Town for the first time when I was around 4 or 5; I still have memories of my time there, but they are hazy, vague. The second time I was 10; this trip is clearer, I'd call the weeks I was out there some of the best of my childhood. However, it was my third visit to the country this year where I realised just how much I adored the South African culture and people.

After flying out to the country in April, one of the first trips I made was to Robben Island. The Island is internationally notorious: before the fall of the apartheid, Nelson Mandela spent 18 years (out of the 27 he spent behind bars) confined to jail there, detained as a political prisoner. Though learning about his (and other inmates') experiences was horrifying and distressing, what shocked me most was just how recent all the events were. It is scary to think that only 20 years ago the apartheid regime was still oppressing South African people, simply for the colour of their skin. It was there, on Robben Island, that I was struck with the thought of how far South Africa has come since Mandela's 'walk to freedom' in 1990, and just how far it has to go.

My film centres around five individual contributors, who each share their own unique perspective and stories of what it is like to live in the country today. The shooting of the film was a very organic process; throughout my travels, every person I came across I would ask to interview. Of the seven I asked, only two declined. I was surprised with just how open and enthusiastic to answer my questions those who accepted were; as if they treated the film as a medium to have their voices heard. These were people who had been part of the struggle for equality, who had faced prejudice for the majority of their adult lives, and in the case of one interviewee, only had their first vote age 50.

For me, film is one of the most powerful and accessible instruments to convey ideas and meaning to an audience. I am currently entering Goodbye Mandela into film festivals, with the hope that it can be viewed internationally, as well as developing new short film ideas.

- Hope, writing in 2016.

Find out more about Hope's filmmaking projects -

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