South African short film 'Son of Old' shortlisted for the 2012 Journeys Awards
Emerging South African filmmaker Genevieve Akal’s short film Son of Old is shortlisted for the 2012 Journeys Awards, sponsored by Louis Vuitton. Her three-minute video was chosen from entries worldwide and viewers will need to vote for the winner after watching the 10 nominees online by September 3.
Akal was excited to be the only South African nominee. “We were delighted of course, and a little vindicated. We are quite adamant that the quality of local music videos should be higher, especially with some of the budgets being spent on them. We were very happy to see that a music video as a short film, with a strong narrative drive was recognised by an international competition,” said Akal.
Son of Old Synopsis
David is on the run from his past and his future. He is on a journey without a destination. Scared to repeat the mistakes of his father, but also fearful to face up to them, David has left his girlfriend and child. He tries to escape his life, but his history follows him and chases him down. Will David run forever? Or will he confront his past and take on the responsibility that is his? To complete a journey you need a destination. David has to find his.
Akal previously created a comedy pilot The Compound which became a web-series and a mockumentary about the humorous goings on behind-the-scenes at 2oceansvibe Media. She also shot a music video Soldier for the band Purple Hearts, which is airing on MTV Base. Akal is currently completing a Script Editing Masters course through Sediba at the NFVF.
“To say it’s been eye-opening is an understatement. I had no idea just how deep the story rabbit-hole goes. The lecturers and mentors have encouraged me to tackle the sinews of story structure, and above all, to serve the story. So the next step would be to write and direct my first feature,” said Akal.
For Son of Old, entrants under the age of 35 were required to create a 3 to 5 minute film without dialogue according to the following instructions: "An encounter. It is part of every journey. An illuminating experience. A face to face with reality. A confrontation with destiny. A celebration of the unknown. Anywhere. Anytime. Now. What will you encounter? Where will life take you?"
The Callsheet’s Fin Manjoo asked Genevieve Akal a few questions about the production.
FM: Is this a story that sat with you previously, or did you originate the whole concept after reading the competition guidelines?
GA: I saw the brief and realised that it fitted perfectly with a project I was already working on. Harry Haddon and I had already conceptualized and written the story for a music video we were creating for the band Sonofold’s single ‘Come Back David’. It was one of those ‘What the hell are the chances of this kind of coincidence’ moments. Nic, the lead singer of the band, had told us that the song is partly about leadership, and how one of the problems locally, and globally is a lack of strong leadership. 'David' in the song is a veiled reference to King David. So in terms of story, that was our starting point. The music took both of us straight to a car, and driving on the open road. The rhythm of the song felt like a road trip to us. From there a couple of ideas came and went, but we settled on a story revolving around a man needing to decide whether he would be a leader in his family. Whether he would be able to confront his past, his father had not been the most effective leader of his family growing up. He needed a change for the better. As much as we can bemoan regional, national, and global leadership, leadership at home is as, if not more, important.
FM: Your thoughts on being limited to five minutes without dialogue
GA: Film is a visual medium. One should be able to comprehend the story with the sound on mute. So too, this film started as a music video, so from inception, we crafted it as purely a visual experience. We had also decided that we were going to make a music video with a really strong narrative. If you watch the film, you may or may not notice that it carries a three-act structure condensed into a three-minute video. We were very happy with that. Too many music videos, in the hope, we assume, of being visually spectacular - or an excuse to have scantily clad girls dance - forget story. So a strong narrative was always the focus. In any film everything should serve the story, but when you only have a couple of minutes this becomes even more acute. There could be no lingering on shots, which we thought were pretty. Does it move the story? Yes. It can stay. No? It has to go. Functionally we have the main character driving the present, and he continually reverts to memory, so there was no need for him to speak, or be spoken to.
FM: Tell us about the Swartland location.
GA: Our initial idea was to shoot the film out in the Cederberg. There was always the idea of semi-desert, a sparseness to the landscape. Where we wanted to film in the Cederberg was too far for us to shoot everything in one day on our budget. The Swartland worked perfectly. It is only an hour from Cape Town and had the perfect look and feel. We got to shoot the scenes outside the house and in the town in Riebeek Kasteel. We then drove five minutes down the road to shoot all the car scenes in a landscape that fitted what we wanted. The Swartland's undulating hills full of wheat have a monochromatic feel. And while it wasn't a desert, it was just as good. We needed the feeling of David having to drive a long distance through something like a desert, and while there his past/memories chase him down, and he is forced to make a decision about where his final destination will be. The landscape had to reflect some sort of desolate wilderness.
FM: What camera did you shoot with?
GA: The film was shot on the Canon 5D by the incredible Timmy Henny. Let’s just say that the budget was absurdly low but I thrive in that sort of guerrilla indie film environment. We had to shoot flat out for one day.
FM: Tell us about working with the singer Nic Olsen and the rest of the cast.
GA: The lead role was played by Nic who is the lead singer and writer for Sonofold. He played David. Quite enjoyably for us, his 'mother' in the film was played by his wife, Manuela, and his younger-self was played by his son Julian. Julian, by the way, should be a future star. He was amazing during the shoot. He nailed take after take after take, even when the camera wasn't on him. The other two characters are played by trained actors Mark Sykes, and Bianca Mannie. I have worked with them before, and as always they delivered just the right performance.
Luca Guadagnino (director of BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated film IL SONO AMORE (I am Love) is the head of the jury. Director and actress Nadine Labaki (Caramel), Zoe Cassavetes (High Octane), and Emmanuelle Guillon (Communications Director) are the other judges.
For more information, visit the Journeys Awards website.