The Power of Culture South Africa Special
Film Resource Unit

During the apartheid years, the Film Resource Unit was one of the few places in South Africa where films banned by the white regime were shown. Since its establishment in 1986 in Johannesburg, the resource centre has grown into an organisation that distributes African films to the whole world, and aims to develop an audience for locally produced film in South Africa. "We want to foster the development of African film", says project manager Desmond Mthembu. "Also, we want to change people's mind-set so they appreciate their own productions more."

The audience development project is multifarious. A mobile studio brings films to areas where people have no access to audio-visual media and organises screenings, in addition to workshops on social issues, such as domestic violence. In some disadvantaged areas, the Film Resource Unit has set up a Video Resource Centre, where people can rent, watch and buy videos. Moreover, young unemployed people all over the country are trained in marketing and film distribution. "They become entrepreneurs", says Desmond Mthembu. Then there is the African Film Club, which targets young people at institutions and universities for screenings and debates about films.

Since last year, the Film Resource Unit established audio-visual centres in six Multipurpose Community Centres (MCC), which are one-stop shops for civil services in townships initiated by the government. An important goal is to organise film festivals on public holidays. Also, local young people are trained in the art of filmmaking. "They make films about issues in their communities, such as HIV/AIDS", says Mthembu. "We show the films during the festival. The audience realises the movies take place within their community. They see themselves, which has a bigger impact. Film is a powerful tool for raising issues."

Inge Ruigrok



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