Every last Sunday of the month a ragtag assembly of twenty-something filmmakers, writers, artists and actors, together with their buddies, muses and collaborators, meet at the Primi

The Coal Stove team
Piatti Studio in Rosebank’s The Zone. They are there to showcase their short films, network and plan for bigger future projects. Andrew Worsdale caught up with Fidel Namisi, co-founder of this new event, dubbed Coal Stove.

Coal Stove is a company that was started by Namisi, Wandile Molebatsi, Scottnes Smith and Terence Mbulaheni, all final year drama students at the Wits School of Arts. Their idea, however, is not a university project; the young filmmakers are thinking of ways to develop audiences for their films, and also to gauge audience’s perceptions of their attitude and style. They approached the owner of the trendy Primi Piatti restaurant in Johannesburg’s The Zone mini mall and he immediately gave his support to the initiative to screen a selection of short movies in the intimate studio section of the eatery.

In the past ten years there has been a surge in the number of film schools and training academies in Gauteng and the gatherings and screenings have become a great way for students from different establishments to exchange trade secrets without their lecturers around to interfere.

My first question to Fidel Namisi was whether there is good communication between the different film schools in Gauteng (the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance – AFDA; the Wits School of Arts, Wits Tecknikon and the University of Johannesburg, amongst others.)

According to Namisi: “It’s not too good, I think. There are very few spaces where the students can interact as filmmakers, especially since there are hardly any joint productions between the schools. So this is a great way for young filmmakers to meet other filmmakers.”

Q Have you sent out any invitations to the industry and have any professionals responded?

A “I think it's still too early to gauge this. In addition, we have targeted young people specifically because the industry people already have spaces where they can meet and interact. We are however looking for sponsorship (we've been funding this out of our own pockets, trying to keep it free) so we are always trying to invite industry people in the hope that they’ll be able to help us out with funding.”

Q What has been the most important product of Coal
Stove thus far?

A “At the moment I would say the most important thing that comes out of Coal Stove is ideas. We have many other ideas that could have quite an impact on the production, distribution and exhibition of films. But we are not yet at a stage, financially and otherwise, to begin executing them. The most important thing that comes out of Coal Stove is innovation. Looking at old things in a new light.”

Q Do you think emerging filmmakers like your peers and you are making a new kind of South African film – perhaps material that is less directly political?

A “Definitely yes. I think people have risen a step above overt political messaging in films and are looking for entertainment. So young filmmakers are realising that if they want to make a living they need to provide entertainment. The existing structure for that is television. The non-existent one is film and we hope to address
and fix that.”

The group’s numbers have grown during its five meetings since starting in February. They normally screen three films from three different institutions per night and the shorts differ in genre, style, point of view and competency. From the story of an American exchange student’s experiences in Venda to the tale of a travelling East European dentist’s jealousy of his wife’s lust for a black hitchhiker/hijacker, the films are strikingly original. It’s a welcome sign that a new generation of South African moviemakers is thinking outside the box, fuelled by their communal coal stove.

For a chance to present your film, call Wandile Molebatsi on 076 279 1140 or Fidel Nemisa on 082 290 9093. The film should not be shorter than 12 minutes (although they can make an exception) and should have a good story – they are more interested in the film’s storyline than in technical know-how. Screenings take place at 6.30pm at the Primi Piatti Studio in The Zone at Rosebank on every last Sunday of the month. Entrance is free and potential sponsors will be welcomed with open arms.