First course in the can for film centre

06 December 2004

The Centre for Film and Media Studies (CFMS) will have good cause to break out the champers this week.

A batch of about 60 students will become the first to graduate from its undergraduate programme in film and media production, having specialised in film, interactive media or print over the past three years.

And the students are making an impression. Oliver Hermanus, who will be missing graduation as he's in the US on a scholarship, is hoping to pick up an internship with the heavyweight Miramax Film Corporation.

Also among the graduands are Tamarin Kaplan and Tatjana Meirelles, two young filmmakers who have already gone some way to breaking into the mainstream. A project first conceived by Kaplan, on interracial rugby during apartheid and specifically the much-publicised game in the Eastern Cape in October 1976 when black and white players took to the field on the same side, piqued the interest of award-winning South African documentary filmmaker Lindy Wilson, who taught on the UCT course briefly.

Wilson convinced the two to seek funding and flesh out their 10-minute first cut of the film that features an interview with Valence Watson - Kaplan flew to the Eastern Cape to meet him - one of the famous Watson brothers who played in that historic match. "It's very good," says Wilson of the film. "The way Tamarin approached the film impressed me, and she got an excellent interview."

Wilson's motivation spurred on Kaplan and Meirelles. "More than anything, Lindy gave us the encouragement to go ahead with the film," says Kaplan.

The two now have to find funders. They're knocking on the doors of a few possible benefactors, including Cecil and Ruth Hershler, an expatriate South African couple who reside in Canada. Kaplan is currently also working on a film on the Hershlers who, through a project called Education Without Borders, have funded many initiatives at Fezeka Senior Secondary School in the nearby Guguletu township. Kaplan shot footage on the Hershlers' visit to Fezeka last week, the first time in 16 years they could get to the school. Kaplan hopes to get the doccie aired in Canada sometime soon.

The scope of her work allows the graduate, who counts Ingmar Bergman, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and Baz Luhrmann among her influences, to find her filmmaking voice. "I think every film that you do gives you a greater experience and adds something to your style," she says.

"As you go through life, you pick up new things that you put into your films."

For Kaplan and her fellow graduates, these are but the opening sequences in a long shoot.

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