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Ntsika documentary to premier

Date Released: Mon, 8 July 2013 08:59 +0200

Eighteen months of work are coming to fruition at the National Arts Festival for Alette Schoon and her team of documentary film-makers.

Ntsika: The Pillar, Schoon's documentary, catalogues the transition of school principal Madeleine Schoeman in her move from the prestigious Victoria Girls' High School to Ntsika Secondary School, a no fee school in a Grahamstown township.

Schoon is a lecturer in TV News Writing and TV News Production at Rhodes University and took her sabbatical in 2012 to focus on the documentary. The idea was born from a workshop held by Michael Rabiger, the founder of the Documentary Center at Columbia Centre in Chicago. Rabiger suggested to the workshop participants that they make a documentary "the ending of which you do not know".

The idea to track the progress of Madeleine Schoeman came while Schoon was reading the newspaper. "It was perfect," Schoon said of the idea. "Madeleine has a strong sense of social justice," said Schoon, speaking about the subject of the documentary. Schoeman took on a mammoth task. Ntsika had only had acting principals for several years prior to her appointment.

The school is a no-fee school. Many of the pupils do not live with their parents and struggle in environments not conducive to learning. The documentary tracks not only Schoeman's journey, but also pupils in the Matric class of 2012, as well as Samuel Johnson, the Maths and Science teacher at Ntsika from Sierra Leone, who has not been paid in 18 months.

His temporary work visa has been cancelled and while in previous years the process has been reversed in good time, Johnson has not been able to receive payment for his work and is living off his savings. The documentary captures his experience of what is like to teach on an empty stomach. Schoon emphasises that Schoeman did not want to be the focus of the piece, as she does not see her work as a charity proj ect. "She says that it is a collective intervention," said Schoon, describing Schoeman's outlook.

The first screening of the film will take place tomorrow (Saturday) at 6pm in the Eden Grove Red lecture venue. The team and the people featured in the film will also be in attendance. Schoon hopes to screen the documentary at the Durban International Film Festival later this month.

The focus on South African education is pertinent to current issues in South Africa. As stilt-walkers cross the street in front of the camera, Johanna Mavhungu, journalism researcher and the narrator of the film, comments, "We need to fix our education so that everyone can walk tall.' Ntsika: the Pillar documents one woman's efforts to do just that.

Photo caption: The makers of Ntsika: The Pillar are united in their wish for education in South Africa to improve. Alette Schoon sits surrounded by her crew.

Photo: Supplied

Article Source: GROCOTT`S MAIL, Supplement A