ONE CAREFREE NIGHT
The township of Manenberg stands twelve miles outside of Cape Town, South Africa. Formed under the apartheid regime in 1966 as a neighborhood for “Colourdes,” the South African word for citizens of mixed race, Manenberg lives under a legacy of racism defined by gang warfare, unemployment and drug addiction. Life as a gang member often prevails over education where high school graduation rates hover around 20 percent. However, within this bleak landscape, a small group of students defy those odds. Every year family and friends unite for the “matric dance” to celebrate their accomplishments, their matriculation (graduation) and hopes for a better future.
IDEA & RESULT
For three years, Elles van Gelder and Ilvy Njiokiktjien followed a group of students from Phoenix High School in Manenberg. Together they documented four high school students in photos and video through their final weeks of school leading up to their examinations and the matric dance. Upon completing filming and reporting, their team approached Jessey Dearing and I to support all stages of post-production.
We were so moved by our characters’ stories that we wanted our viewers to have the same experience. Our strategy was to craft an honest portrait about these teenagers founded in the universal coming of age experience. The story needed to balance a profound sense of pride and joy without discounting the bleak reality and daily challenges that face the youth of Manenberg.
The result was a 15-minute short film that elegantly weaves together four teenagers’ stories of survival, determination and discipline to become the first generation in their families to graduate high school. One Carefree Night has received high praises in multiple film festivals and has been published internationally. Even though the matric dance has come and gone, the story continues to challenge viewers and inspire hope.