23 Oct Lavender Hill Better Bodies | A Documentary and Photo Series
Lavender Hill Better Bodies is a short documentary about Rui Solomons, a young bodybuilder from Lavender Hill who found a way to turn his life around and is intent on helping others in his community do the same. Known as the most dangerous area within the Cape Peninsula, innocent citizens and children regularly lose their lives in the crossfire of violent gang wars. Growing up in such a poverty stricken environment drives a large portion of the youth to turn to either drug-related business or gangsterism.
Gabriella Achadinha (who produced the documentary, and co-directed it alongside Michelle Madden) first met Rui through his brother Bevan Solomons, on the set of a music video shooting in Lavendar Hill. “The particular scene involved weights and after some fun snap-taking, Bevan began talking about his brothers’ success as a starting bodybuilder and he asked whether we would be interested in photographing him sometime,” she says. Upon meeting Rui, Gabriella was taken by his infectious, positive, go-getting yet calm energy. “His ambition and dreams for the community that he loves and grew up in is manifested in his business idea, Better Bodies, in which he envisions a gym for all community members with free training and counselling.”
In Lavender Hill Better Bodies, Rui discusses his life in Lavender Hill and what bodybuilding means to him as a tool to further himself but over and above that, to inspire other children growing up in the same dire circumstances. Constable Adams who is in charge of the Lavender Hill area identified bodybuilding, specifically focusing on the competitive sport entry, as a means to divert young men from crime to something more constructive.
“A dynamic space of conflict and innocence, walking through the flats one is met with a multitude of young children playing games of skip rope and doing group homework together,” Gabriella recounts. On the other end of this spectrum, the secondary school Rui attended recently installed a 1.2 million rand bullet-deflecting fence in order to prevent their students from getting killed in stray bullets from local gang warfare. “This puts into perspective the measures that the local community has to take to project their children, as well as the tumultuous space these youth grow up in.” Contrasted with hope and violence, this is the environment that Rui navigates daily and is determined to have an effect on.
While shooting the documentary, Gabriella also shot a series of 35mm film photographs largely focused on the children of Lavender Hill and their surroundings to highlight the innocence they lend to such a torn-down area:
If you’re interested in supporting Better Bodies, whether financially or in another form, please contact Rui Solomons at firstname.lastname@example.org or Gabriella Achadinha at email@example.com