The documentary film Portraits from South Africa demonstrates the powerful impact of personal connections across time and geography. Over a decade ago, a young African American photographer based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa for an artist residency and ended up in the township of Tembisa, located 35 kilometers east of the metropolitan centre, teaching photography and book making to a group of children, forever changing the lives of all involved.
For the young people who had never held a camera, met an American, or even traveled outside of their township, the weeks they spent together opened their eyes to new possibilities and a global worldview. This film tells the story of their reconnection, the ups and downs of their lives in the interim, and the persistence of hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
Portraits from South Africa holds wide appeal for South African and international audiences, and crosses generational divides. Young people everywhere will see themselves in the stories of these ten Tembisa youth, who struggle with issues ranging from identity formation, to HIV/AIDS, to educational and economic opportunity. Adult allies will find evidence of the real impact of “giving back” to the community and the power of mentoring.
It also reminds us that individual small acts of compassion can change lives, and ultimately, change our world.
Director/ Filmmaker: Iris Dawn Parker
Length of the film: feature
Shooting location: South Africa and Chicago, Illinois