Archive for the ‘africa’ Category

Don’t tell me this doesn’t look the way it is…

November 1, 2013

Are the recent UK Visa Laws a teeny bit racisty? I hate to say it – but is there any other way to see it?

I’m angry that I have to work so much harder now, as a South African citizen and holder of only a South African passport, to go to the UK or anywhere in Europe. I want to meet my niece and nephew. I want to go to the film festival in Paris where my short is screening. But I can’t risk booking the ticket. The visa process could take as long as 60 days!

So I started looking into when South Africa became country non grata, and wound up writing a column about it for News24 this week (will link when it’s live). Here are the bare bones of what I discovered when I researched this issue.

South Africa is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

Commonwealth nations lie all over the map.

Commonwealth nations lie all over the map.

But all nations in the commonwealth are not equal in the eyes of the Brits. If you’re from Canada, Australia or New Zealand you’re welcome in the UK without an invitation. Just show up and you’re in. If you’re from South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland… Let’s see… Jamaica… India… you are required to spend a small fortune and up to 60 days applying for a visa before they’ll be kind enough to let you come to their damp island and spend your hard earned inferior currency. At one point, South Africa was on the English guest list. This was when we still had apartheid.

Have a look and see who's not welcome. Then think a bit about why.

Have a look and see who’s not welcome. Then think a bit about why. If you’re from the USA – not even a commonwealth member – you get a free pass too.

Here it is put another way… for the slow people.


And I think this probably means I won’t be getting a visa anytime soon!

What do the Cape Town shark flags mean? Nobody knows! Allow me to clarify.

January 16, 2013

I’ve swum in the sea in Cape Town at least once a day since I arrived home a month ago and guess what? I’m still not dead! Not only am I not dead, I still have all my arms and legs.

I mention this because I’ve asked a few of my friends, many of whom are regular beach goers, what the flags mean. They all agree that the Black flag with the white shark means a shark’s been seen in the bay. The others… they’re not sure really. They all agree the red one means danger and the green one might mean there’s a shark. They’re all understandably confused, because the flags are stupid. They make it look to anyone driving by as if Cape Town’s sea is infested with great whites. In fact, it’s not nearly that dangerous.

This is one scary flag. What does it mean? Answer: NOT that there is a shark in the water.

This is one scary flag. What does it mean? Answer: NOT that there is a shark in the water. It means that visibility is poor and the shark spotters can’t guarantee they’ll see it if it’s there. This is the case most of the time.

Now you know.


Okay, apologies for the poor color. South Africa has always been rather bad with colour and don’t care for it much, so the sign is a little faded. A GREEN flag is the best. It means it’s safe to swim and the shark spotters up on the mountains will probably see the sharks in time to sound a warning. The BLACK flag is second best. It means they can’t see for sure, but they probably will. And the RED one is actually not the end of the world. Means there’s a shark cruising around in nearby beaches. WHITE is bad news. That means there’s a shark. Don’t swim. Even if only out of courtesy to the poor shark spotters, who hate it when you die cause then people think they didn’t do their job in time.

When they see the black flag – or any of the flags with sharks, my friends do one of two things, assuming it means “there’s a shark and the surfers are only out there because they wanna die”:
1. Turn round and drive home.
2. Drive to a beach that doesn’t have shark flags at all. Cause what you don’t know won’t hurt you. UNLESS IT’S A FUCKING SHARK. Duh.


A fun sign explaining surf etiquette to beginners and Ubuntu to everybody. Muizenberg has some great waves, but is also known to be a beginner’s beach. It’s the best place imaginable to learn to surf, and well-serviced by the shark spotters, who have a great view from their station, high up on Boyes Drive. The water is also warm. I’ll never forget my final sunset swim with my mom, the clean white foam, the soft salty light.

Signs of South Africa

January 11, 2013

South Africans aren’t rude. We’re just overly familiar and brutally honest.

It has been an insane year in SA. And WTF is now in the actual dictionary (the Oxford is always a few years behind - they'll catch up one day soon)

Newspaper posters on the lamp posts: It has been an insane year in SA. And WTF is now in the dictionary (the Oxford is always a few years behind – they’ll catch up one day.)

We tend not to respect celebrity for its own sake. We tend not to respect authority for its own sake, either. After all, Apartheid used to be law. Nowadays, driving over the yellow line is illegal. Anyone here never done it?

The upside: Cars don't have to sit behind you on a single lane highway for 3kms. Downside? It's illegal? Upside? Nobody cares.

The upside: Cars don’t have to sit behind you on a single lane highway for 3kms. Downside? It’s illegal? Upside? Nobody cares. Downside? Over 1200 road deaths this holiday. Upside: Fast traveling and fun times.

Cape Town is famous for the fact that you can come here and… be completely ignored no matter how famous you are, except maybe if you leave the city or want to fuck girls from Camps Bay who wanna be famous too. Colin Farrell spent lots of time here cause he could walk around without his sunglasses on (not that he did, his eye would hurt, cause Cape Town parties hard and drugs are fresh off the boat). But mostly he was here cause Capetonians think they’re special. They’re like, “Oh, you’re Colin Farrel? Really? Well fine, but I’m from Cape Town.”

Celebrity Rehab? Come here and get sober. We don’t care how who you are, or how wasted you are.

I think these signs from all over South Africa exemplify this point. We’re special. We get to say it like it is. Take…


So I took a tour of an old age home, looking for a friend of my Mom's who she hadn't contacted in a while. She was freaked out - being about 24 years closer to death than I am. But this sign in the complex made her laugh.

So I took a tour of an old age home, looking for a friend of my Mom’s who she hadn’t contacted in a while. She was freaked out – being about 24 years closer to death / urinating on herself, than I am. But this sign in the complex made her laugh.

And laugh again.

And laugh again.

And this is what you get - I think this is a lovely way for an old age community to remember you. I think it's okay to laugh in the face of death. Perhaps it's even essential.

And this is what you get – I think this is a lovely way for an old age community to remember you. I think it’s okay to laugh in the face of death. Perhaps it’s even often fucking essential.


We dare it. We double dare it. We’re not like Americans; scared to venture from our car to our apartment if the “air” isn’t already on on a hot day. Sweating never killed you… except when it did.

Okay, it's unlikely that today's cell phones could cause a gas tank to explode... but it's still annoying to the petrol attendants when you use yours. Same reason why they pretend it's dangerous on airplanes BTW.

Okay, it’s unlikely that today’s cell phones could cause a gas tank to explode… but it’s still annoying to the petrol attendants when you use yours. Same reason why they pretend it’s dangerous on airplanes BTW. “If you use your cell phone now, nobody may ever talk to you again.”

Now actually, lighting a cigarette at a gas station is actually genuinely stupid. If you do it while you're on your cell phone you will also be sneered at while you die.

Now actually, lighting a cigarette at a gas station is actually genuinely stupid. If you do it while you’re on your cell phone you will also be sneered at while you die.


Aaaaand back to that.

Real reason for this sign: Grapes close to the road get covered in dust and are hard to make wine with. Other reason: People who live on farms feel free to drive really fast and ignore speed limits and this farm is surrounded by other farmers.

Real reason for this sign: Grapes close to the road get covered in dust and are hard to make wine with. Other reason: People who live on farms feel free to drive really fast and ignore speed limits and this farm is surrounded by other farmers.

Jou Ma Se Secrecy!

June 3, 2012

I’m missing home as I write this random post about a picture taken more than six months ago, at a protest against the ANC’s secrecy bill – a betrayal of everyone who supported and fought for freedom in South Africa. I found it via a facebook friend who has gone from a buddy at my workplace to an NGO mover and shaker. And who, best of all, seems to be happy!


Jou ma se secrecy is a reference to “jou ma se poes”, which I won’t translate unless you insist. Oh fine, it’s like, “jou ma se guava” but less polite. The bill is still news, and is being used in court, to stop people posting pictures of art that’s critical of the president. Stupid law.

Working with kids and dogs on a film set

January 25, 2012

My film school doesn’t allow students to work on school projects with kids or animals until thesis year. Which I consider ridiculous. Even as extras, they’re part of the fabric of society and as a director, if you don’t know the pitfalls from personal experience, you’re useless for most mainstream projects and many indie things. And why would you want to be learning this thing while making your final project – your industry calling card? Anyhow. I don’t need film school to make films, luckily. And I’ve been curious about childhood lately – not in a morbid way, but because there was some crazy innocence in me deciding to spend my retirement savings and everything else becoming a filmmaker. And actually, kids take direction really well, at least, Storm and Layla did.

After the final shot. Everybody was still hanging round because my mom, who was the most amazing host, was giving us all cake and getting everybody to sign her table cloth. Long story about the tablecloth that involves embroidery.

What surprised me, after the whole experience, was how great it was to work with kids – at least, the kids I got to work with. I had done it before – helping a summer school USC student as AD, and thought I just got lucky with that child. And I assumed I’d struggle. But Layla and Storm were twice as professional as the average over-40 prima-donna LA veteran. Storm (who knows his way around a set) even insisted on slating for us because he has this boundless energy. Layla (who has never done film before) was a natural storyteller, so I asked her to improv a lot of scenes. It’s just play. It has to be honest. That’s not different to directing adults. The biggest thing I struggled with was not swearing, cause I swear a lot.

Dogs? Well that’s a lot more difficult.

My amazing crew – most of whom were also new to film – seemed to get that this was our film, not mine. For that, I’m eternally grateful.

I’m glad I tried making a film in South Africa. It’s different in so many ways to the USA – from what equipment is called to what is expected of roles. To the fact that here, I have a community, and there, I’m nobody to most people. I am sure it’s the best thing I’d done. And when I say I, I mean we. My producer, Ashlin Simpson, was so determined and fought against all odds to get this done. When budget issues hit us, we needed to cut the parents and she suggested using Cow and Chicken POV, so crew members could step into the roles. A creative solution to a financial problem.

My Director of Photography shotlisted with me days in advance, walked the location, talked story, gave days of his time… and brought his experience and expertise to the set.

My Assistant Director Michael Klein noticed performance issues and pointed them out when I was distracted by random problems. He ran the show without shouting.

Yay, filmmaking. In South Africa. Yay, getting up at 4.30am. Yay making something that didn’t exist before.

Sea Point Promenade’s latest greatest things for me, and a touch of ennui.

January 8, 2012

In between my existential crisis, aka “when will America’s consulate allow me to get on with my life” and my attempt to make a short film while I’m still here – if that’s not forever – and my various visits to my past and my many reunions with loved ones, I squeezed in a walk on the Sea Point Promenade today. Isn’t it beautiful? One of my favourite places on earth.

Messages on the sea wall for Mandela's birthday in 2010.

The most beautiful park I've ever seen.

An outdoor gallery - this series of sculptures has lasted a year, despite some vandalism and weather damage.

It’s Cape Town’s Central Park, although most people in Cape Town don’t get the chance to live anywhere near it and have to drive or bus in. (I’m all for low cost housing in the area where I own property to solve that problem. Bring it on.)

The latest trends are public art and open air gyms.

It's a rocking horse...

... it's a rocking horse that talks out of its arse. And its mouth. Kids love this and have looooong conversations with each other through the mouth to ass telephones.

Here's how it works.

The outdoor public gym: Designed for adults, but mostly used as a jungle gym by kids in between swims in the sea.

The rules. No this, no that. I'm pretty sure someone's breaking them as I type this, and getting away with it. Ya South Africa.

Still standing here, in what used to my home, I felt sad. I don’t really have a purpose here right now. I can’t get a sim card without my father showing up with his ID cause my apartment is rented out so I don’t have an address. I am all about work – it makes me who I am  and I have nothing much to DO, really. Limbo feels more limbo-like now that everybody I know has gone back to work and winter term has started without me, and I am still here, staring at the perfect sea view.

I know I sound ungrateful. But I can’t help it. Though it’s amazing here, there’s only so much great steak you can eat. Only so many times you can swim in a perfect blue ocean. Only so many times you can hug your friends before you wonder… when can I go back to the torture and pure hell of making movies?

This holiday needs to end. ASAP, hunnybunnies.

Oh but first, a quick #PSA.

Dear America. THIS is a hamburger. As the lolcat said "IF I KAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER CAN I HAZ ZIS ONE PLEEZ"?

Cape Town’s faded New Year’s day glory

January 1, 2012

I woke up this January 1st in Cape Town, South Africa, feeling pretty much human – I left the party in a taxi driven by a guy who smelled like solvents and didn’t know my name, how to follow directions, or how find his own way, but he did get me home by 2am, after a few arguments and near-death moments on the road. Or “by 2am, thank God” I thought when I woke up in the morning with my limbs still attached.

I have no idea what this is all about. There was a series of them on the pavement (that's what we call the "sidewalk" in South Africa).

I had lunch plans in the CBD with an old friend so I decided to walk the few miles down the hill to the city, and back. On the way I took photos of all the weird signs I saw.

PAIN in large rough letters on the street wall of the reservoir on Upper Orange street. Twice. I wonder who wrote it and if they're alright now.

I love new year’s day in the city. It’s a slightly sad scene. There’s the faded glory of New Year’s party posters, the darkened shop windows, the people, some still in party clothes, wandering home on a walk of no shame at all, or eating breakfast where they could find it. It’s like the whole city’s either saying “Jeez… is that it?” or “Shitsticks… what the fuck have I done?”

Lost Dog - found by New Year's or still wandering around without anyone to pick up his turds? I definitely saw a lot of turds on the sidewalk so I suspect he's still on the prowl.

There’s also evidence of altered states of mind of other kinds.

No clue what this graffitti is all about. I'd love to know. It's written on the downstairs boarded up garage of an apartment block I always wanted to live in... that has recently burned down.

An attempt to balance beauty and the need for security. Those ivy leaves on the pillar are made out of razor wire. I think they're borderline illegal, since it's not legal to harm intruders. All preventative measures are meant to be non-deadly.

Ahhh... The Lennox. Once the only hotel in town where "non-whites" could stay at the height of apartheid, and where I stayed with my family at some point when we first came to Cape Town, now a run down "bed and breakfast", where people live in what looks, at least from the outside, looks like squalor for all the wrong reasons. The curtains are filthy.

There were three garbage bags next to this sign, stuck on a wall outside the NG Kerk, and some man's clothes in the closest bin. Also, a coat hanger hanging from the tree inside the church security wall.

This button thingy for the pedestrian crossing is so old that it's still only in English and Afrikaans - not also Xhosa.

I walked down through the Company Gardens. They've been the same since forever, although they're less like a monument to colonialism now and more like a museum visited by all South Africans. People sleep on the grass in their lunchbreak, read books on the benches. In 1996, I once walked through at 4am and passed a guy, completely naked and red from the cold, furiously masturbating in public. True fact!

A dodgy dude. But we don't break down the statues here in South Africa like they did in Russia, and neither do we pretend they aren't dodgy like they do in the USA. We just build more. Behind, the gallery, which I must go check out while I'm in town.

Speaking of dodgy... The Great War. Wasn't so great for the dead guys whose names appear on the list up there.

Why is this written in cardboard? In ballpoint? At least have a magic marker, ffs. The sign refers to the outdoor cafe place in the gardens. Seems like the staff just decided to close early today. I don't blame them. I just think the way it's announced is pretty hilarious. And then someone decided it wasn't clear, came back with another ballpoint, and added (We mean the Cafe).

Oh, Telkom.

Nothing less partyish than the poster for last night's party in the window of a store that's closed. In South Africa, most people don't work on public holidays because they're, well, you know, public holidays and shit.

I sometimes wonder if anyone has ever masturbated over a shopfront mannequin. Is it wrong to? And what if you take a photo and then look at it at home, in private?

I have no idea what this is about, but I think it's beautiful. Someone tell me. Kinda looks like someone got all street-arty early in the morning on New Year's Day.

This is who I had lunch with. This is his tattoo. Yes, it's real. And yes, he means it. He very nearly had to be hospitalized due to starvation when the pizzas as Bardelli's on Kloof took over 90 minutes to arrive. I'm getting used to Cape Town time, because the food is so good when it finally arrives. I'm sure by the time I've adapted again it will be time to leave.

And that was my day. Here’s to 2012. May we all not die like in the movies. Specially those of us with shit written on our arms.

I want to be beautiful, to be your girl

June 23, 2011

Ever had that moment when you looked at someone impossibly beautiful and thought: What the hell must it be like to inhabit the world in which that is your body, that is your face, in which you can have literally anything… or so you imagine.

It's not a girl thing.

I’m busy writing a script about that at the moment. The moment when the makeover dream comes true.

Among the discarded tennis raquets, he unwanted teddy bears, the once "have to have" but now pointless elephant sculptures, a cure for obesity. I think it's the kinky holes that do it - the vacuum effect literally sucks the fat out, replacing it with a six pack. (Photo taken in a junk store in Simonstown, Cape Town, South Africa)

South Africa is beautiful. It hurts. It’s nuts. It makes no sense. I’m in love.

June 8, 2011

Okay so, I’m at a light. A traffic light. A friend is pouring her heart out at a traffic light – in south Africa we call them robots but whatever. And two bakkies pull up. In South Africa we call them bakkies. You call them trucks.And this white ou jumps out of his car in the traffic while my friend is still talking, and the light goes green.

A parking lot with awesome graffitti. Soon-to-be yuppie flats for rich people of all races.

And so my brain goes into four wheel drive to watch this weird miracle in which he gets a rugby ball out of the back of the bakkie. And everybody’s hooting but he doesn’t care, because here in Africa, we have balls “this big”. As big as the situation requires. So he’s parking his car in the traffic. and there’s someone in the next lane who’s stopped too. He has the same car. That might be the only reason. Or he might just be curious. Or it might be the same reason I jay-walk and love it, cause that’s how we roll in South Africa. Shortest route. Most dangerous? What’s the diffs, bro.

The architct of those "tampon towers" killed himself. I nearly rented there. They do mostly suck, specially when the Cape South Easter blows. They literaly sway in the wind and it's strange.

So the one wit ou parks his car in the traffic and this other wit ou with the same car does the same while 300 people of various racial orientations (cause we’re fokken African, so fuck your “nationalities” shit) sit on their hooters or jump the red light to compensate for the delay caused.

Cause that’s our right. Right?

And the wit ou – fat and nothing whatsoever – jumps out of the car and gives the Big Issue vendor guy a rugby ball with stuff written all over it.

A cop car drives past, ignoring it all.

My friend is still talking and I’m still hearing her. We pull off and I look back and I see the Big Issue vendor spinning the ball int the air, the female fellow-vendor asking him questions.

And then the Bakkie Wit Ou explains it to the other bakkie wit ou. And then the Big Issue Guy walks down the pavement as we pull off, tossing the ball in the air while talking to the Mama long after the car moved on. The ball had stuff written on it. I saw signatures spinning.

South Africans are not polite. They are not appropriate. We don’t have time for that shit. What we have to do is too important. But on the streets i’ve experienced such kindness. Like this begger, who came up to me. Unlike American beggers, he was my begger. His life was shit to start with. Anyone who made it to government rehab had better options than him to start with and I was on my way into a liquor store.

“You okay, madam?”
I resisted the urge to tell him to not call me madam. Such suburban vanity.
I wasn’t okay.
“Bad night. I see.”
Okay he’s half the reason for my sadness right there.
So I gave him some money.

My friend pointed out he was just gonna spend it on booze. But I just spent 20 times that on better booze. And I’ve more than once bought a random stranger a tequila in a bar on the basis of a lesser understanding.

In the end, being in a home is the best – the only – thing you want. I guess I’ve realised I have to go home to America, since that is home for a few years, and fight harder for my soul, which will always be here in South Africa. Not always in the big, glorious places, but in the small, glorious places, like the home where they’ve gone to bed, acknowledging that I’m still in another world, and left me online in it.

I love this piece of art, because I know who did it. I think still art is either a challenge, or a ... another kind of challenge. If it's good. I know all the art I've made so far has been comforting. Fitting in. I've done that too much. I respect his art on my friend's wall - her kid's - more than most I've seen. But this belongs to the person I know and is also greater than him. I'm scared of what will happen when I stop fitting in. And excited.

Warm, wet & wonderful

June 5, 2011

The funniest signs are the ones that aren’t meant to be funny at all. Just spent a weekend at the Citrusdal Baths. Amazing place – an old Victorian hot springs resort, where for $15 a person per night you get to swim in this amazing, warm, non-sulphorous swimming pool of hot mountain water.

Warm, wet and wonderfully. No pussy-footing around this one. Just in case you thought warm baths might be cold, dry and horrible.

The Afrikaans marketing slogan means “hidden away/secluded paradise”. Although “steek” can be funny all on its own, cause it also means the verb “to fuck”. The English one had us all in regressive hysterics: “Warm, wet & wonderful”.

And then there’s this sign in the restaurant.

And to cleanse your visual memory, I’d like to offer this photo of taken out of the window of the place where we stayed.

The view from the lounge of our self-catering flat.