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Where do I stand?

Date Released: Mon, 4 April 2011 14:29 +0200

A recent screening of Molly Blank’s documentary “Where do I stand?” examined young South Africans’ perspectives on last year's xenophobic attacks. The Rhodes International Office and the School of Languages hosted this special evening to end the first term's series of films. 

Images of seemingly angry youngsters clad in the bright greens and maroons of their school uniforms looting neighbourhood shops for money, sweets or bread. Their anger sparked by the May 2008 violent attacks on foreign nationals. Almost three years later and Molly Blank takes our minds back to the attacks when she introduced her short, powerful and thought-provoking documentary.

In the film, Blank captures the optimistic voices of youth trying to make sense of what they experienced and the choices they made during the violence, as they carve out their own places in this complex and divided nation.

While in a workshop during the violent attacks somebody suggested that she do a film on the youth and xenophobia. This is not her first attempt at a youth-orientated film - she journeyed through the classrooms, libraries and living rooms of Cape Town. She interviewed 200 young people before deciding on seven youths to share their experiences of the xenophobic attacks.

This film has a mix of teenagers who either participated in the looting of shops belonging to foreign nationals, those witnessing the attacks including one teen whose family was terrorised by mobs during the period. "I was scared, I am scared even now because you don't know where it (the violence) will come from," he said in the film. He was alleging that people who attacked his family were no strangers.

Some of the perpetrators did not just act out of hatred but out of the opportunity to lull hunger at the time or a confused combination of the two. These teens explore their roles within these events leaving one grappling with questions that they have not yet found all the answers to.

"The film was not perfect but it reminded me that as a people we have not dealt with the issues that led to the attacks. Some of these kids still justified the violence," said a member of the audience, Lukhanyo Nyandeni, referring to those who wanted foreigners to visit but not live permanently in South Africa.

With the film's focus on learners, the film will be shown in schools across South Africa as well as being distributed in the United States. "Even before making the film, I knew that I wanted it to be used in classrooms," said Blank.

By Nompumezo Makinana