A strange meeting and a gift transform a young Zulu woman into a powerful and mysterious character known as Ghost Kat. They propel her into the unknown, a journey through a fictional city – part toxic wasteland, part futuristic urban maze. In six episodes, each introduced by narrator Bhubesi (Khaya Sibiya), Ghost Kat makes her way through a series of encounters. Each of the ambiguous entities that she meets brings a momentary respite from the city's alienation, before sending her further onwards into a darkening landscape. But can these enigmatic figures be trusted? Are they accomplices or adversaries? And where will this journey lead?
A fusion of several art forms including music, dance, fashion, storytelling and film, Ghost Diamond is an experimental short film created by musician OkZharp (Gervase Gordon) and photographer and filmmaker Chris Saunders. Gordon's script draws on similarities between the Zulu and Japanese mythological traditions. He uses archetypes from the Hagakure (the centuries old 'Book of the Samurai') to create the characters that appear in Ghost Diamond, among them Rat, Golden Eagle, and Hyena, while the film structure alludes to the early work of legendary Japanese director Takeshi Kitano.
Using the storyline and Gordon's atmospheric soundtrack as a foundation, Saunders has sought to accentuate the music through the film's visual content. He directs a surreal emotional journey, conveying the feeling of moving through a city based loosely on his hometown, Johannesburg – a place that is sometimes experienced with a sense of isolation and fear, and full of lurking surprises, both positive and negative.
Originally from South Africa, Chris Saunders is currently based between Johannesburg and Paris. Saunders started out in fashion and commercial photography before venturing into documentary work, focusing primarily on local 'culture crews' such as the Smarteez, and Pantsula dancers. Saunders has also directed commercials and music videos, and has collaborated with a host of local and international artists.
Gervase Gordon is a Cape Town-born, London-based musician. Previously a member of Hyperdub trio LV, Gordon further made a name for himself as Okzharp, releasing tracks drawing on South African hybrid dance styles such as kwaito and qgom. In 2015, he teamed up with Manthe Ribane to release the EP Dumela 113. He and Ribane are currently signed with the Hyperdub record label in London.
Manthe Ribane, who has toured internationally with Die Antwoord, both performs vocals on Gordon's soundtrack for Ghost Diamond, and stars in the lead role as Ghost Kat. This she realises through her distinctive hybrid dance style, influenced by pantsula and hip hop, amongst others. Ribane also formed part of a live touring performance of Ghost Diamond, which premiered in Europe at the beginning of 2016.
Ghost Diamond is the product of two years' extensive international collaboration, during which time many of its contributors have seen their careers rapidly escalate. Gordon and Saunders worked with a shoestring budget to bring the project to fruition, eventually completing it with a grant, awarded as part of the SA/UK Seasons, a joint funding initiative by the British Council, South Africa Department of Arts & Culture and the NFVF. The film features animation, ident and design by Optigram (UK); editing and visual post-production by Deon Van Zyl (SA); as well as wardrobe and styling by Jamal Xedlana from Misshape (SA).
Directed by. Chris Saunders
Writer & Producer. Gervase Gordon AKA Okzharp
Director of Photography. Chris Saunders & Deon van Zyl
Graphics and Animations. Optigram
Performers. Manthe Ribane, Khaya Sibiya, Kay Kay Ribane, Tebogo Ribane, Jamal Nxedlana, Zaki Ibrahim
Wardrobe and Styling. Jamal Nxedlana