History films are historical first at UCT

11 July 2002
GRADUANDS Taryn da Canha and Gaironisa Paleker have made history in the Historical Studies Department by being the first students to submit films as part their Masters' theses. Da Canha and Paleker submitted full-length documentaries about topics of their choice.

Da Canha's documentary focused on the South African documentary industry over the past 30 years, particularly on the resistance documentary industry of the 1980s.

"I was trying to figure out why the industry was in the situation it was in. But my focus was mainly on progressive film making, especially around the whole anti-apartheid film movement within documentary film and the problems faced by people in the industry because of the censorship laws," she explains.

Paleker's film on the other hand, was focused on the life of Cissie Gool, the Cape Town activist after whom the Cissie Gool Plaza at UCT is named. Her documentary also looks at the social issues and the politics in the coloured community at the time.

"I chose my topic because there is a Cissie Gool Avenue out in Athlone that I drive past regularly and I never knew who Cissie Gool was, so I was always curious about her. So when I was thinking of a topic for my thesis, I did some research on her and was fascinated with her life," says Paleker.

Paleker says she chose the topic because, in her opinion, historians have neglected Gool's life, work and politics. "Part of the reason I did this film is because I think that she deserves some sort of exposure, and apart from me there has been some work done on her life by PhD students in the department."

Both students say that though the process of filmmaking was challenging, the experience was invaluable and they would like to get involved in South Africa's film industry.

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