Twelve students from different corners of the globe came together over the last nine weeks and created two cinematic masterpieces about different social interactions by ordinary people in South Africa.

The students from Africa, South Africa and Finland, participants in a North-South-South Finnish Exchange Programme, spent the last few weeks working together at Wits to create two documentaries portraying everyday people experiencing social issues in the country.

The screening of two short documentary films took place last week, as the culmination and conclusion of the South African leg of the programme. The first documentary showed the trials and tribulations of a South African disabled woman wanting to become a rock star, and the second followed around three South Africans and related their experience of and to the World Cup, set to take place in South Africa in June 2010.

Prof. Yunus Ballim, Acting Vice-Chancellor, said the University is honoured to have been the base and training ground for the local and international students.

"We believe very strongly that the business of the University is about the human condition that does not acknowledge national or cultural boundaries, because all the problems humans experience seems to be transcending boundaries. We also celebrate the collaborative agreement with the School of the Arts and the students from Finland undertaking interaction with our students. They have created a cosmopolitan identity, something we sometimes struggle to identify in each other. This project speaks exactly to that," said Ballim.

The Film and Television division in the Wits School of the Arts are the co-custodians of the programme that sees 12 students (eight from Africa and South Africa and four Finnish students) broaden their horizons and head overseas for an exchange with their Finnish counterparts.

The Finnish Institution, called Arcada Technical University, also collaborates with Helsinki University, AFDA (the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance), the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and a Film School from Ghana called NAFTI.

The North-South-South Programme promotes co-operation between Finnish higher education institutions and their counterparts in Egypt, Peru, Nicaragua, Nepal and Vietnam and in sub-Saharan African, in this case South Africa.

The programme has been going for five years and involves the students working in Africa for half a semester and in Finland for the second half. The project is financed by a state entity in Finland called CIMA, under the auspices of the Finnish Foreign Office. Part of the programme is producing two documentaries in each place.

Prof. Georges Pfruender, Head of the Wits School of Arts, said he is proud of the group because they have managed to work together and create artistic excellence in a very short space of time.

"The whole university is a huge space of interaction and dialogue, one in which we also consider the exchange of ideas, the investment of those ideas and the production of knowledge. The fact that you come from such different institutions and created these documentaries, proves that you have learned how to make a difference. We are proud of you," said Pfruender.

"One of the great things about the programme is to see South Africa through a foreigner's eyes. We went to the Apartheid Museum, which I have never been to, and you learn a lot about yourself. You also get to see a great new part of South Africa, which you never would have otherwise," said Wits student Lindsay Sharp.

Charlotta Munsterhjelm from Finland said: "We've been using taxis for eight weeks and everybody's warning us that it's unsafe but I think it's just fun. You get to talk to locals in the taxi and they would ask us where we come from and where we are heading, and they would laugh at us because we can't speak proper English!"

The students departed for Finland on Monday, 12 April 2010 to continue the second part of the exchange.

For more information contact Ian Walters on (011) 717-9748 or email ian.walters@wits.ac.za. Read more about the programme at www.arcada.fi.

Article courtesy of the University of the Witwatersrand.
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