Directed by #YakimaWaner
Film Review by Jack Bottomley
The Harvest opens with a dedication to humanity, frankly, knowing what humanity is like, especially right at this moment in time, that could be a really bad sign. Thankfully what follows is a film that does not ignore the ills of this world (far from it) but one which stands defiant in the face of a cold, merciless and prejudicial authority and opts instead to take the spotlight from those in power (none of whom - tellingly - agreed to be interviewed) and shed it on those who are our future but who need help in the present.
Starting with archival footage of a growing/harvesting programme for children in Jewish ghettos of Nazi Germany, which would prepare them for the future, we then move forward to 2018 South Africa. Our story picks up in an area known as Plastic City in Brakpan, outside of the Weltevreden landfill. This community is made up of families of recycling workers, many of whom have children reliant on their labour. These children are the very beating heart of The Harvest.
This film captures a beautiful, timely and indeed harsh document of a modern day issue that most will have never even heard of. The film is almost a tribute to the spirit of community and goodness, and it’s a story built around two ladies and the little souls they care for. Jessie Nkosi and Hlengiwe “Twinky” Nkosi (and their family) are two sisters who took it upon themselves to build a creche in Plastic City, so the children would have somewhere to go while their parents were at work. What started as Teletubbies Day Care, later became Blessings Eco Preparatory School and has changed the community and in many ways some of the country.
This film by Yakima Waner is far more than just a project, it is a passion, an experience and something near and dear to her heart. Starting as a curiosity, as Waner drove past the community and wondered what went on within, it grew and grew, as she was warned off by civilians, told of a criminal infested culture of “foreigners”, what she found (thanks to her social activist pal Sandy Ngwenya) was a struggling community that exemplified the human spirit. Especially within the hand built walls of Teletubbies Day Care.
This documentary feature is filled with information, collated from hands on experience, and it reminded me very much of the Lucy Walker film Waste Land in how it harnesses hope from a dangerous life/setting and tells the story onscreen of wonderful real people, striving to help make this rough world that bit better. Throughout the over 2 hour duration we meet a selection of young children with stories to tell, including young Gonsalves Jose Mutsenga, as he battles with Hydrocephalus syndrome and my heart swelled at the story of young Lam and Hazira and their family, who save and show love to the abandoned dogs and animals of Plastic City (one of which, Karti, has found a new lease on life).
This film is a joyful celebration of what it is to achieve goals and to help others but it is also a damning inditement of institutional powers, who intentionally make the struggle greater and who perpetuate a culture of xenophobia and fear. Some sequences in the film chill with their presentation of the uncaring government, worst of all though is the fact that this is not a surprising development. In fact this links back to the film’s opening historical focus on the Jewish people of Nazi Germany, as the film uncomfortably correlates their history with the wrongful hateful perceptions of Plastic City and its people today. This modern day South African community, where people are cast aside due to their identity and where hate crime is still a raging fire, links to such horrible history and without change we are doomed to repeat it. At one point Holocaust survivor Irene Klass tells her story and it chimes very much with the one Waner is relaying to us here.
With a diverse soundtrack and some incredibly captured imagery, this is a documentary experience that is highlighting a real cause (The harvest Project) and shows how reconnecting the most abused and in need children with nature, with an education and with happiness is vital to ensuring they and South Africa has a worthwhile future. I was caught off guard early on by a use of the iconic Star Wars Darth Vader breathing audio, but its use is to powerful effect, as the film raises health concerns, environmental issues and recurring problems of humanity and asks us to watch and help make a difference. So that the next breath can be a long refreshing one, instead of a despite gasp.
This is cinema of change, of hope and of a better future. Remarkable viewing.
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