Five films about a city desired

During the final months of 2014, a year that showcased Cape Town as the World Design Capital, Cityscapes magazine and the African Centre for Cities (ACC) hosted an exhibition to showcase the everyday dreams and aspirations of Cape Town’s citizens. It was called “City Desired.”

Aiming to transcend the usual views of the Mother City – that of a divided post-Apartheid city, of a city of violence and inequalities on one side, and of carefully instrumented change through policy and institutional action on the other – City Desired was a first-of-its-kind effort to highlight the power of a “shared desire for alternatives.”

The exhibition told the stories of 11 ordinary Capetonians through photography, video, maps and data models. The short videos about each of these individuals are available at the City Desired website. Five of our favourites are listed here…

The Transporter tells the story of Thabang Molefe, who grew up in a car mechanic’s family, working first in the family business, then as a minibus taxi driver and grew up to be one of the key figures in the taxi industry’s recent negotiations with the City of Cape Town. The film follows Thabang from conversations with his transport colleagues to a nighttime braai at his home and gives a sense of how far Thabang’s desires have taken him.

The Principal at St. Agnes Primary in Woodstock is Alfonso Louw, a self-proclaimed “superhero” with too many roles to play, battling a notoriously unequal education system and a lack of resources in a working-class area, all the while maintaining his sense of humor to help his students succeed. Simon Taylor captures the challenges of St. Agnes and Alfonso’s cheerful demeanour in this video.

The Unionist tells of a sense of community and mutual support in the historically fragmented profession of domestic workers in South Africa. Mina Plaatjies works full time while organizing fellow workers at night in the hopes of building a better world for her daughters. This short clip shows the strength and determination demonstrated by this working woman and her family and community.

The Interrupter is the story of former gangster Colin Barends who has dedicated his life to stopping the violence he used to be part of, by opening up and engaging in conversations with those perpetrating it. This video, through shots of Colin speaking, full of energy, with members from all parts of his community, emphasizes the power of hope, confidence and the belief in the possibility of change.

The Entrepreneur sounds like glass, concrete and stock exchanges. But really it’s the tale of one brave woman, Christina Mtandana, beating out the odds of gender, race and class and running her own food business, despite the adversities of crime and weather. The film offers a fascinating look behind the scenes of this Phillipi vetkoek shack, including some of the joys and challenges faced by its owner.

Maitagorri Schade is an editorial intern with UrbanAfrica.Net. She is an urban traveler and scholar who is working toward her master’s degree at UC Berkeley and has a passion for informal transportation and community development in the global South.


Photo: Taxi driver Thabang Molefe, courtesy City Desired.

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