UW News

November 2, 2006

Staffer’s film on South Africa to be screened Nov. 8

Masizakhe: Let us Build Together, a film by Scott and Angelica Macklin, will be presented at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8 in 210 Kane. Scott Macklin, chief technology officer in the College of Education, made the documentary as a result of going to Port Elizabeth, South Africa as part of a partnership with a university there.

“My role was to set up computer labs in the townships, with the idea that they would become magnets for social change,” Macklin said. “But when I got there it was a really humbling experience. I was thinking I would bring them information literacy, but found out the immediate needs were electricity and running water.”

That was in 2000. After a conversation with school principals and community members to learn about the area’s needs, a group of principals came here to work with faculty Then, in 2005, a group of faculty from the College of Education went there to work with Nelson Mandela University and members of township schools on educational leadership training. Macklin, who had previously created a film on a Northwest Native American canoe journey, wanted to do another on the “everyday heroes” of South Africa. So, during the 2005 trip, he did a series of lectures there called Learning to Film, Filming to Learn that described the earlier filming.

“At one of my talks this young man stood up and asked me if I was a Native American,” Macklin said. “When I said no, he asked me what right I had to make a film about that culture. I told him I had been asked to do it and that I had given the film to the tribes. The next day that young man returned with 20 others and said, ‘Come with us and learn about our culture.'”

Macklin was taken to a poetry/hip hop slam. “They were using their art to make meaning and engage the community,” he said.

So last January, Macklin returned to South Africa, where he filmed six such events in six different townships. Each had a spoken word group, none of which was really in touch with the others. The film he’s created includes some of those performances, intercut with interviews he did with students, teachers, principals and community members.

One of the featured performers, Thabang Queench, a student activist from Nelson Mandela University, said, “We are using our cultural activism as a form of struggle of memory against forgetfulness and as means to excavate our past for the future. We know it is very challenging, but we are trying, we are trying.”

The screening on Nov. 8 is a “sneak preview” of the film, which still needs a few finishing touches. Macklin plans to take it to South Africa for screening in either February or July. Then he hopes to enter it in film festivals. The screening is free and open to the public.