South Africa: UCT partners with community filmmakers to effect social change


The Center for Film and Media Studies (CFMS) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Sunshine Cinema have partnered to create the Film Impact Screening Facilitator short course. This short online course explores the theory and practice of engaging with the public on issues of social change using documentary and fiction film screenings, discussions, and other interventions.

Coming out of the wreckage of COVID-19 lockdowns and a world in financial crisis is a stronger feeling than ever that a lot needs to change. A look at the list of the best shows on Netflix reveals that problem-focused documentaries have become increasingly popular. The conversations around them change the narrative.

Faced with short attention spans and a rush of “big issues” vying for urgency, message-carrying organizations and movements have begun to work with film and storytelling as a way to create impact. . But what happens after the film is made? How does a film reach the right audience and convert interest into action?

Sunshine Cinema has been a leader in alternative distribution for over a decade. Their formula for landing stories with communities near and far has been tried, tested, and continually refined. Seeing the gap that many producers, organizations, and creatives experience between finished products and audience impact, partnering with CFMS on a course was a natural fit.

Collaboration is key

Sydelle Willow Smith, co-founder and lecturer at Sunshine Cinema, said: “African impact producers manage multiple challenges both in terms of storytelling across languages ​​and cultures, but also in reaching audiences. who do not have access to it. The course content applies globally, but it is our African resilience and creativity that has influenced our strategy so much and allowed us to distill what works.”

CFMS course leader Dr. Liani van Maasdorp explained that although they don’t teach filmmaking in the course, production and distribution go hand in hand. “The key is collaboration. Few filmmakers have the energy or the resources after producing a film to take it themselves across the country so it can reach a critical audience. Many people affected by the rights rights, social justice and environmental issues exposed in impact films live It takes a special group of people – from funders to activists, from non-governmental organizations to academics and from filmmakers to screening hosts – to s ensuring the right film reaches the right audience in the right way to ensure that real and meaningful social change occurs.”

Conversation is buzzing around the proliferation of fake news and conspiracy bots. The antidote could be a well-made and carefully checked documentary film accompanied by a productive conversation between stakeholders. In the right hands, this could be powerful enough to change the world.

The Film Impact Screening Facilitator short course runs from June to December 2022 and applications close on March 18.


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