Internationally acclaimed local documentary film maker, Francois Verster (director, editor and producer), continues his month-long residency at Wits as the Carnegie Resident Scholar, under the auspices of the Wits Television and Film Department, and the Department of African Literature.


On Monday, 22 October 2012 Verster delivered a public lecture entitled Violence and transformation: Limits to ethical strategies in documentary film making at 13:00 in the Graduate Centre Seminar Room, South West Engineering Building, East Campus, Wits University. All were welcome.

During his stay at Wits, Verster has hosted a screening of his last feature documentary Sea Point Days and continues conducting master-classes for staff and students.

Verster's high international reputation and respect is due to his path-breaking and compelling documentaries. His work regularly receives official invitations to leading international festivals where it has won numerous awards including an Emmy Award for A Lion's Trail. His acclaimed debut as a documentary director/producer, came with the Pavement Aristocrats: The Bergies of Cape Town and was described as "astonishingly brave and intimate", "brilliant" and "magisterial" by the South African media; the Variety 2000 International Film Guide labelled it as "magnificent".

When the War is Over, a 52-minute film which looks at the survivors of the anti-Apartheid Struggle, was described by the Swedish press as "a work of documentary genius". The Mothers' House, a long-term observational film about the lives of three generations of women within one family on the Cape Flats, won eighteen international awards. In response to Sea Point Days, which looks at life at Cape Town's Sea Point Promenade and Municipal Pools, the Munich International Film Festival noted: "To stroll around a place in an open manner, to find a plethora of outstanding detail, and at the same time to tell a complex story of a nation that reaches far beyond a little beach area is an awesome achievement".

There is a thematic and stylistic coherence in Verster's work that can serve as an important catalyst in rethinking the conventional ways in which the social role of film, media and scholarship have been understood and used in South Africa. One of the signal strengths of his work is that it uses film and art to, in his words, "engage with political realities in ways that traditional analysis cannot" and in the process "engender ways of looking that open up new combinations with philosophy, politics, emotion and so on".

Despite the diverse subjects and characters treated in his documentaries, Verster is consistently interested in the profound experiences of ordinary, marginal characters and how they deal with the hopes and fears that their quotidian experiences confront them with amidst the 'big' and 'sensationalist' narratives of post-apartheid South Africa. The fascination with the ordinary is powerfully underscored by Verster's penchant for using an observational aesthetic. He prefers to shoot his documentaries over a sustained period of time, allowing himself and his subjects the requisite space, time and reflection to try and embody and understand the difficult lives and changes that are being experienced and put under scrutiny. What emerges is a nuanced and provocative representation of the complexities, ambiguities and paradoxes of change (as desirable, unsettling and even possibly treacherous) in the lives of the individuals and communities that are the protagonists of his films.

Verster has taught and held residencies across the world including the University of the Western Cape, the University of Maryland, the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and Columbia University in New York.