South Africa’s head is spinning from the World Cup preparations. With its two cities of Johannesburg and Tswane-Pretoria, the Gauteng Province is the centre of the nation’s economy and undergoing major transformations; from the construction of roads, bridges and stadiums, to the investment in Africa’s first high-speed train. There is a sense of optimism that tourists will come here and nourish the economy with Dollars, Pounds, Yen and Euros.
Poverty is well entrenched, still the strongest force, and stratagems for releasing the poor from the blight are beset on all sides by obstacles ranging from the lack of resources and opportunities, to sustainability issues.
Enter the Gauteng Carnival.
Started in 2005 by the Gauteng Provincial Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, the Carnival is rapidly establishing itself as a far-reaching solution to the poverty issue.
The last two Carnivals of 2008 and 2009, had an estimated 15 000 participants. Showcasing the Province’s rich cultural diversity, developing skills, creating sustainable employment and most importantly, encouraging a sense of optimism in poor communities, the Carnival is seen as a great opportunity by the thousands who are involved in it.
The problem is that nobody knows about it. There is practically no audience at these events, and that goes against everything that a Carnival stands for. Advertising is poor in comparison to the airtime that big sporting events get: for every one poster advertising the Carnival, there must be 100 advertising the ICC Cricket Champions Cup or the FIFA Confederations Cup.
“Behind the Game, the Story of the Gauteng Carnival” documents the experiences of a group of artists, dancers, musicians and fashion designers as they set about preparing for the Carnivals of 2008 and 2009.
The documentary travels: meeting giant-puppet-makers on a French skills-development program in the township of Orange Farm; a troupe from Soweto, who perform uniquely South African Pansula dances to music played on instruments made from recycled materials, likewise a French-South African skills development program; we witness the construction of the largest costume ever made in South Africa, an 8m high, 3-dimensional rendition of the South African Coat-of-Arms, also a skills transfer project between Trinidad-and-Tobago and South Africa.
Amidst all this, the documentary shows the Carnivals of 2008 and 2009 in two very different locations; first the busy, low-economy, high density sector of downtown Johannesburg, and second, the affluent, spacious, and audience deficient streets of Sandton, the economic quarter of Johannesburg.
This is a film about creative solutions to poverty, about inspired people working together to imbue the streets with a sense of euphoria, colour and glitter, and above all, to show the world that Gauteng, South Africa has a Carnival spirit drawing in people from across the world, beyond 2010.
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