September 30, 2019

SHNIT At 10: A Restrospective


shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival celebrates a decade of Playground Cape Town. We look at some of the highlights and what you can expect this coming October.

Initially founded in Bern, Switzerland in 2003, shnit quickly spread across the world, with Cape Town taking its place as the third city on board in 2010. Since then, it’s grown to include Buenos Aires, Bangkok, Cairo, Hong Kong, Moscow, San Jose, with a global award ceremony hosted in New York City. This year will see the world-renowned Dr John Kani joining the Cape Town jury together with Cinematographer Gaopie Kabe, Director and Comedian Kagiso Lediga and Writer Lauren Beukes.

“Ten years is an amazing landmark,” says Kirby Kruger, Producer extraordinaire and one of Playground Cape Town’s Festival Managers, “and aside from being a platform for aspiring filmmakers, it’s grown into an incredibly nurturing community and culture. Everyone in Cape Town knows what the shocking pink colours mean when October rolls around – it’s impossible to miss, and that legacy is a completely home-grown one: shnit is a completely volunteer-fuelled festival.”

Some of the incredible local filmmakers who cut their teeth at shnit over the years include Nosipho Dumisa (Nommer 37, Suidooster, Blood and Water), Jenna Bass (Flatland, High Fantasy), Gaopie Kabe (The River, Lockdown), Sibs Shongwe-La Mer (Necktie Youth), Daryne Joshua (Ellen: Die Ellen Pakkies Storie), and Matthys Boshoff (Flight of the Phoenix, The Story of Racheltjie De Beer).

“Short films are an incredibly powerful foot in the door for the industry,” adds Kirby, “and as a global festival, filmmakers who make an impression stand the chance to do so internationally.”

Sean Drummond, the mastermind behind Playground Cape Town (and who currently is part of the management team for the worldwide festival), says that when they first brought shnit to the Cape, they had no idea what they were in for. “The overriding memory is utter terror as we wrestled the first edition into shape by sheer force of will.  Ten years on (how did that happen?), we’ve had the privilege of working with some of Cape Town’s most passionate filmmakers, on our festival team, in our extended family and in our film programmes. We’ve had the support of the industry from top to bottom, the support of long-standing hosts like The Labia, of filmmakers, of ten years’ worth of incredible juries and of dedicated audiences… It’s been a hell of a journey and it’s made me a better filmmaker, too. Thanks to everyone who has been a part of it.”

Sibs Shongwe-La Mer

According to Sibs, shnit has been invaluable in launching his creative career. His first short film that screened at shnit was Death of Tropics.

“shnit was really the start for me,” he explains, “It was the first place I got to see my work on the big screen and the first time I felt welcomed as part of a film community. Being there’s and having my first effort projected in a cinema for an audience was a radically empowering life event and a beautiful experience that cemented that this is what I want to do with my art.”

Shorts are beautiful teasers of what a filmmaker’s mind is like, he says. It shows what interests them stylistically and narratively, and it’s a great space in which to practice the art form. “When I see a weird bleeding heart short film that punches me in the face and steals my lunch money, I start to fall in love with the artist, the mind behind the vision. I truly think that’s a powerful thing not just for the cinema but for us all.

“Without stages like this, it becomes virtually impossible for young filmmakers to develop a unique cinematic voice, learn their instrument and decide what kind of filmmakers they want to be,” Sibs adds. “I think it’s super important we develop and support filmmakers to be who they are and grow into themselves instead of training kids to make commercials. I’m a huge believer in filmmakers being filmmakers, artists being artists, valiantly striving to contribute something real and urgently personal to an often monotonous space, especially in South Africa. Festivals like shnit are made to facilitate the growth that has to happen out of the classroom… in the movie house.”

Nosipho Dumisa

Nosipho’s career is peppered with shnit – since her first experience in 2013 when she was a participant in the Real Time competition as a 1st AD to eventually being a judge in 2018. “Every year has held so many surprises and exciting moments,” she says. “I love this festival.”

Films of hers that were screened at shnit are The Briefcase (as executive producer) which won the Real Time competition in its year, and Nommer 37 (as director), which was nominated in the South African category. “Our short film, Nommer 37, was made as a proof of concept for a feature film and now that feature film has travelled to many festivals around the world, winning several awards. Winning at shnit made the correct people sit up and take notice,” she explains

As a Writer and Director at Gambit Films, Nosipho is now in the process of directing Netflix South Africa’s second original series, Blood and Water. Although she’s working mainly in longer formats these days, she says there are so many things that are great about shorts. “They’re an opportunity to test ideas, sharpen up-and-coming filmmakers’ skills, and engage with ideas that would otherwise not work in longer formats. They test a filmmaker’s ability to tell a story well; to figure out the most important elements of storytelling.”

Gratitude to the Funders

The 2019 shnit festival is supported by the National Film and Video Foundation, the City of Cape Town and a host of service partners.

SA Film Selection 2019

Made In South Africa: Jury & Audience Competition

  • Afrika Is A Country
  • Axis Mundi
  • Billy Monk – Shot In The Dark
  • Camcopy
  • Fall Into The Sky
  • Miracle
  • Nongqawuse
  • Scenes From A Dry City
  • Skaap (Sheep)
  • The Bull
  • The Letter Reader
  • Vossie Vergas Homself (Vossie Kills Himself)
  • The Lost Carts Of The Karoo
  • Wrapped Up

Local Flavour: Audience Competition

  • Agulhas
  • Chin Up!
  • Tuiskoms (Coming Home)
  • Cowboy Dan
  • Ember
  • Far From The Castle
  • Fatima
  • In The Light Of The Fire
  • Kloof
  • Life’s A Drag
  • Milk & Honey
  • Nomvula
  • Our Albertinia
  • Queer
  • Roses For The Ocean
  • Sonrotse (Sun Rocks)
  • Story Of A Baked Brownie
  • The Company’s Garden
  • The Jaguars Daughter
  • Tweetalig
  • Undone
  • Unknown No.
  • ‘What Constitutes Home?’

Don’t miss the tenth edition of shnit Cape Town from 17-28 October 2019. capetown.shnit.org