Keyan G Tomaselli shares his personal reflections on the recently held Bafundi Film and TV Festival. This guest feature is reprinted with permission from CILECT News.

Deja vu.  I had last stood on the "spot in the Wits Downstairs Theatre" when it was a parking lot in 1981.  Before relocating to Rhodes University, Grahamstown, in May that year, I had under John van Zyles direction introduced film and TV production in the newly established School of Dramatic Art at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in 1976 (cf. Van Zyl 1984).  We had started with a single Super-8 Camera. A year later we bought an editing table.  We had a totally dysfunctional monochrome TV studio which the Wits Educational Technology Unit had imported in 1972 when the ban on TV technology had been lifted in anticipation of a national service starting in 1976.  Standing at the podium in March 2008 to introduce the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) student contingent was for me an indicator of the enormous strides made nationally since then in video and /film production education. The first cohort of Wits graduates in the late 1970s had in a short time indelibly and creatively influenced film, theatre and criticism in the country's economic heartland.

The first student film festival was held at Rhodes University (RU) in 1981, organized by the Department of Journalism and Media Studies under the auspices of the annual Grahamstown Festival (Grove 1981, Tomaselli and Hayman 1981).  The 1981 Festival debated ideological issues, apartheid being an ever-present shadow: aesthetics was hotly debated as to politics; and genre was discussed in relation to advocacy. At Bafundi (Nguni, meaning "Student") depictions of struggle were not surprisingly much less evident. Critical social commentary is now much more nuanced and aesthetically innovative than it was or could be under apartheid.   Rhodes had been the first liberal English-language university to introduce TV studies in the late 1970s (cf. Hayman 1980).

Twenty-seven years were to pass before a second festival was organized, this time by Wits Theatres in Johannesburg.  Titled the Bafundi Film Festival it was and will be sponsored annually by the South African Broadcasting Corporation's (SABC) Industry Development Unit with support from the Gauteng Film Commission.  Building Professionals was the inaugural theme, allied to providing a platform for student work.