A new initiative by the Afrika Culture and Development Club (ACDC), the Films Club Project, aims to bring film’s power for problem-solving, upliftment and social change to the broader community, particularly young people.

ACDCAfter completing a project management course in Denmark earlier this year, the ACDC Films Club Project team – made up of three South Africans and three Danes – have been working to set up film clubs in townships.

Launched on 10 August at the Workers Museum in Newtown, Johannesburg, the project focuses on real issues such as joblessness, skills development and social enterprise. Through it, youngsters will be able to take films to their communities and spark discussions around them.

Newly formed film clubs in Protea Glen, Ivory Park, Jabavu, Evaton, Dobsonville and Westclare have already screened their first films over the past few months. Each club is a separate legal entity with its own constitution, but affiliated to the Afrika Cultural Centre, of which the ACDC is the development arm.

The Afrika Cultural Centre has an excellent library of local and international current, relevant and thought-provoking films. Films shown to youngsters at the different clubs included Slumdog Millionaire, The Wooden Camera, Soweto Sneezed, The Experiment and Zulu Love Letter.

Films are chosen for screening based on their potential for development, and those already screened have given audience of all ages a chance to see how other people deal with their concerns. Universal issues, particularly those affecting the youth, are also explored.

According to director Benjy Francis, the ACDC aims to establish independent, voluntary film clubs for children and youth around the country.

“We are extending their world view and their understanding of their part and place in our world,” he says. “As South Africans, we tend to look at things in a very isolated way. This is a way for young people to take up the challenges of transforming their world.”

Through the Afrika Cultural Centre’s vast collection of local and international films, these clubs will inspire their young audiences with entertaining, through-provoking films relevant to their lives and situations, he adds.

The ACDC is partnered internationally with the Association of Danish Film Clubs for Children and Young People. Established in 1952, the association believes film is an excellent vehicle for promoting dialogue around issues vital to young people.

At the beginning of this year, three South Africans and three Danes – Busisiwe Mchunu, Siphokazi Sitsha, Sizwe Clement, Astrid Lindgreen Hjermind, Fredrik Dupont and Kia Rask – took part in an international project management course in Denmark for one month. Since returning to South Africa, the team has worked to build foundations in townships for further ACDC film clubs.

In May, the team conducted a four-day workshop transferring their knowledge, skills and experience to 53 film club participants. These will, in turn, become the next generation of youth leaders with knowledge and experience.

Francis points out that the value of social enterprise lies at the heart of the project; participation is voluntary and there is no expectation of financial gain for the members or the leaders of the film clubs. The film club will become a place where young people can learn and develop their entrepreneurial, management and leadership skills – all critical in today’s job market.

He believes that by next year more educators will be trained and each club will have a film unit and training in making films on a smaller scale. “It will be more like a bridging programme.”

Culture for change

The Afrika Cultural Centre was established in 1980 as an independent Section 21 not-for-profit educational, cultural and development non-governmental organisation. It was formed to promote, produce, research and develop cultural, artistic, educational and vocational programmes for the encouragement and advancement of community development.

The ACDC, which was established in 1984, was Francis’s response to the 1976 youth uprising. As an artist, he says, he wanted to find a sincere and meaningful way to address the crisis facing South Africans.

In 1989, the Afrika Cultural Trust, also a non-profit body, was formed to develop, manage and maintain the facilities that are required to fulfil the mission and vision of the centre. One of the trust’s mandates is to raise funds for the centre’s activities.

By 1991, the trust had been granted a substantial piece of ground – 2.2 hectares – at 52 Goch Street in Newtown, Johannesburg by the city council, where it has invested in improvements and built facilities valued at over R3-million.

In 2000, Francis reevaluated the centre’s stance and determined that it should focus more on giving back to the communities in which it had worked. He decided to use film as a medium not only for bringing people together, but also as a way of giving them an opportunity to discuss he films and how they were either touched by the films or how they were able to relate to the films.

“I realised that young people simply need to be given the structure and they will start to blossom,” he says. “What I mean by structure is moving away from bricks and mortar to a structure within one’s life, a framework for living.”