My latest film project finally came to an end with the national premier at a cinema in Vienna. “Apnea” was three years in the making. It is the last part of Hund & Horn’s “Living Space Series” which shows human life under awkward conditions.
At the beginning of March Hund & Horn are invited to participate in an exhibition in London. The show which is curated by artist and free curator Richard Ducker is called “Smoke on the water”. It features our films “Tomatoheads” and “Dropping Furniture”.
I take up the opportunity and visit London. The weather in early March is rather cold but it also sunny. I stroll around town and photograph buildings which catch my attention, as for example the Barbican:
Close to Tate Modern and next to a Brutalist hospital tower a skyscraper is going up…
while in the vicinity of Elephant & Castle a few inhabitants of the Heygate Estate defy eviction…
The Heygate, a social housing complex built in the early 70ies, consists of six huge blocks. At the time of writing it is being demolished. Remnants of the TV-era still remain on the facade…
I spend New Year’s eve at a friend’s in the 16th district of Vienna. Shortly before midnite we go downstairs to watch the fireworks at Yppenplatz (now a fashionable square in an immigrant district). There is a war going on in the streets. Hundreds of firecrackers get thrown around, fireworks blow up in the air.
We go down to Ottakringer Straße, which has been labelled Vienna’s most notorious street some years ago. Fireworks go up from in front of a Serbian joint. Young guys light up rockets which shoot up in the air with quite some noise. Beautiful blossoms of fire light up in the sky, their colours shine in the faces of the spectators.
Suddenly a street lamp catches fire. From the speed the lamp lights up and burns I can tell that that lamp is made of plastic (made in the 1960ies or so). The fire goes on for twenty minutes. Burning plastic drips down on the street.
Soon there is the sound of a fire engine blowing its horn, blue lights appear in front of us. A fire truck passes the burning plastic on the street, stops, goes into reverse and puts out the fire with its left back wheel like in a cool action flick. The truck turns around when a second fire truck stops. Just at the very moment when I think „typically overdone security à la Viennoise“ both drivers honk their horns in unison, the warning lights switched on, they put in the first gear and both fire trucks shoot off to a new mission in a stereo effect. I must respect the coolness of those guys!
A friend takes me to South Africa to work as the DOP for a documentary project which will be presented on the internet, starting with March 2010 (www.nameit.at > Kap Transmissions).
The project is kind of a behind the scenes of the soccer world cup 2010 and is intended to offer an alternative take on SA while soccer frenzy will be on the way next year.
We stay in Johannesburg and interview people in and around Jozi (synonym for Jo’burg). We meet school teachers, architects and city planners, a person responsible for art in public spaces in Jozi, technicians working in alternative energy, social workers, refugees and people expelled from areas which got demolished during the Apartheid era.
Jozi, as opposed to Cape Town and Pretoria (both white) is dominated by black people, while Durban (the third biggest city in South Africa) is dominated by Indians who started to migrate to South Africa in the 19th century. Mahatma Gandhi spent many years in SA (from 1895 to 1914) working as a lawyer defending the rights of his countrymen.
Hillbrow is a notorious district of Jozi, which, as the names indicates lies on a hill overlooking Joburg’s Central Business District (in short CBD). There is a TV-tower right in the middle of the district which appears in Jozi’s 2010 emblem.
Hillbrow, now close to being an urban slum, was a whites-only residential area that was fled by its inhabitants in the 1980ies as more underprivileged people moved in. Due to poor investment major buildings decayed and the district was labelled a no-go area affected by poverty and crime.
There are some high-rise buildings in Hillbrow which are in a pretty bad condition. Some of the buildings have most of their windows smashed and some have partly black facades due to fires.
The three of us are fascinated by the area, so we visit Hillbrow several times, once even for (cheap) shopping. The place has its own charm.
Johannesburg’s Central Business District has a similar fate as Hillbrow, although effort is now being put into developing the area. Most of Jozi’s office blocks and high-rise buildings are to be found in CBD. There is also a lot of abandoned houses, some of which have been blocked with masonry on the first and second floor in order to prevent people from moving in.
Other buildings have been taken over by or rented out to refugees from other African countries. Those houses in CBD can be easily identified from outside as clothes hang outside the windows.
Accompanied by two social workers who work for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) we visit a run-down art deco building which is inhabited by 1,200 refugees. We get up to the 3rd floor where we meet people whom we can interview.
We interview two people from Simbabwe (who make up the majority of refugees in South Africa) outside of their two room „apartment“. The first room of about 10 square meters serves as a kitchen and also has a bed for several people. In the second room of about 25 square meters there are several beds which are only separated with cloths. Six to eight people live in that room. No room for privacy.
The toilets which are to be found outside at the end of the hallway are in the worst condition imaginable but we get told that there are even worse buildings without any water nor electricity.
There is a pungent stench of waste and excrements. The fire escape stairs in the building are full of waste. Actually somebody is sweeping the stairs and all the waste comes flying down from the upper levels. We hear laughter from people on the floors above. At least house sweeping makes fun…
is short for South Western Townships, meaning that Soweto is an aggregation of different townships around Jo’burg. Black People in Jozi speak only with greatest pride of Soweto probably due to the fact that the uprisings against the apartheid regime in 1976 started there. Sowetans seem pretty well off like middle class people. Most of them live in proper houses with water and electricity as opposed to inhabitants of other townships which have to live in makeshift shacks.
On a Sunday afternoon we go to watch a concert at a place called Thesis Social Club. People in Soweto are proud and very friendly. There is also a special way of dressing up. Sowetans are quite stylish. At Thesis we meet musicians, graphic designers, filmmakers, graffiti artists and the like.