“The mythology of modern-day Johannesburg is this… In the year 2023, humankind stole fire from the gods. We exchanged clay for metal and plastic, and, with these elements, formed beings in our own image.”
So begins the short, experimental science fiction film, elf, created by me and my partner in art and life, Luke Worster. The film follows the journey of an efficient life form, or “elf” for short, as she wanders the streets of Braamfontein, searching for feeling. Neo, a human, reflects on her encounters – both real and imagined – with the enigmatic elf.
Earlier this month, Luke and I were thrilled to hear that elf had been officially selected for screening at the 36th Durban International Film Festival. I am so excited that our film baby is going to be shared at such a prestigious event with filmmakers from all over the world. On the 16th of July, I’ll be jetting down to Durbz to catch elf on the big screen. I’ll also be participating in Talents Durban with 39 other filmmakers from all over Africa. This exciting programme includes a series of workshops, networking functions, and free access to all the films being shown in the festival.
Luke and I originally made elf for a film school exam, and we were honoured at our annual prize giving – The Wits Tele Awards – with Best Experimental Film and Best Title Sequence. At that time, elf was half as long as it is now, and focused solely on the title character, portrayed by Ricci-lee Kalish.
Kalish is an amazing, up-and-coming South African actress and model, and it was an absolute pleasure to work with her. She portrayed the android of my imaginings with sensitivity and cool restraint, lending the character a touching vulnerability. Kalish also stars in Necktie Youth, Sibs Shongwe-La Mer’s edgy feature film about contemporary youth culture in Johannesburg. Necktie Youth will also be screened at DIFF this year, and is right at the top of my to-watch list.
After several script revisions and a crazy Sunday of pick-ups, I re-cut elf and got the talented Julian Van den Heever on board to spruce up the sound design. We were even lucky enough to get Bye Beneco to agree to let us use their song Cosmic Ocean in the film. Cosmic Ocean is the twelfth track on Bye Beneco’s first album, Space Elephant, which I have been listening to basically non-stop since I bought it in October last year.
The final version of elf includes several new scenes – captured in photographs – from Neo’s perspective. Neo is played by Neo Sibya, another incredible human being, who is not only a talented actress, but also a fantastic writer. Earlier this year she won 3rd prize in an SA FM Radio Playwriting competition.
Even though elf has undergone some dramatic changes, Luke and I have worked hard to preserve the magic of our very first cut. I feel that giving a voice to Neo’s character and exploring the story from her perspective frames the narrative well – rooting it firmly in a South African context and enabling the film to reflect on the fragility of human experience. I will never forget how crazy fun principal photography was, and I am eternally grateful to the awesome team of people who came together and helped Luke and me bring our vision to life.
elf was shot primarily in and around Braamfontein, with a brief foray into Hillbrow. The latter venture came to a swift conclusion after we walked past a pile of rotting cow heads baking in the sun. I wish I was joking, but the smell of the abandoned bovines was so bad that some people were actually running away from it! Needless to say, colourful Braamfontein provided a far more pleasant shooting experience:
DIFF 2015 is going to be my very first film festival experience. I’m counting down the days until I touch down on the sunny shores of Durban – just 2 weeks to go!
You can find out more about DIFF 2015 here: http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/
and Talents Durban here: http://bit.ly/1Iviv6Z
If you’d like to see my cheesy grin among the other, much cooler-looking participants, click here: http://bit.ly/1HzhBHz
And if you’re looking for fantastic make-up, hair and styling, give Katelyn Hughes a call: http://www.katelynhughes.co.za/