By Claudia C J Fratini
(UNISA, Dept. Afrikaans & Theory of Literature)
What do you get when you fill a room with aspiring writers for the performing arts and high profile guest speakers from the theatre and film industry? This may sound like the opening line of a clichéd joke but in fact it is the beginning of a successful partnership between UNISA’s Department of Afrikaans and Theory of Literature, the Writers Guild of South Africa and the Italian cultural association for screenwriters, Controluce represented by its president, Antonio Falduto.
Addressing a crucial ‘gap’ in the South African writers’ field, the workshop, aptly titled, Shop Talk invited, professional and budding writers to participate in a three day skills-transfer engagement that discussed an often forgotten type of writing, that of writing for the performing arts. From the 5th to the 7th of November participants were put through the paces on how to write for theatre, film and new media, how to work within the parameters of co-productions as well as given invaluable advice on how to promote their work, legally protect themselves through clear contacts and interpretations of current industry regulations as well as how to correctly pitch their scripts for production. Key speakers includedboth local and international professionals such as Thandi Brewer, Anna Hamlin, Johan Drotskie, Junior Makhoere, Derick van der Walt, Henning Bason and Antonio Falduto. Other key elements such as the preservation of South Africa’s theatrical heritage were also addressed with the presentation of the ‘Theatre Heritage Project’ of the Department of Afrikaans and Theory of Literature at UNISA presented by Lida Kruger.
Talk Shop was attended by over forty participants who walked away perhaps a little bewildered but certainly the wiser and more professionally prepared. Key presentations were also recorded by UNISA Radio for future broadcasts and podcasts. However, engagements of this type are not exclusively platforms for learning but also present great networking opportunities that in turn develop into further collaborations and projects. One such spin-off is the presentation of Sebastiano Riso’s debut film, Darker than Midnight (Più buio di mezzanotte) on the 19th of November at the Miriam Makeba Hall at UNISA. This presentation would not have been possible without the interest garnered during the community engagement workshop and the support and collaboration of Controluce, the Ministero per iBeni e Attività Culturali, Italian Institute of Culture, Institute for Gender Studies and Tirisano Centre at UNISA.
The film starts its SA tour at the Italian Film Focus in Cape Town and then moves on to Pretoria for an exclusive screening in the presence of the film’s director, SebastianoRiso. Presented at Cannes in May of this year and winner of the Guglielmo Biraghi Award at the 69th Nastri d’Argento Film Festival, Darker than Midnight interrogates strong gender questions from an LGBTiQA perspective as well as address issues surrounding identity and social acceptance. The screening of this film and Q & A sessions at UNISA will present a unique opportunity for students, academics and the general public to engage with gender and social issues that affect all engaged audiences.