Update: Since publishing this article, Jas Boude has been uploaded in full online. Watch:
“The duality and flow between the forces trying to kill you and the will to survive inherent in life on the flats has always intrigued me,” says Imraan Christian, who was immediately interested when Georgina Warner pitched a documentary about the 20sk8 brotherhood to his UCT graduation class. The story, which holds this very duality at its essence, documents a group of skateboarders who break out of the Cape Flats ghetto and infiltrate the Cape Town CBD in search of a freedom and a power denied.
Imraan himself grew up on the Cape Flats, surrounded by communities of people who were disempowered because of their socio-economic circumstances and distance from the CBD. Many of these areas are notoriously rife with gangsterism, drugs and violence. “Yet,” says Imraan, “despite these harsh circumstances, Cape Flats communities have maintained a love of life, and a strong sense of pride and belonging.”
Jas Boude is a film co-directed by Imraan, who also did the cinematography, and Georgina, who also did the editing. Along with the film’s producer Fritz Bucker, it took Georgina and Imraan roughly four months of research with the leaders of 20sk8 before they began principle shooting. Gaining the trust and acceptance of Shuaib Philander, Keerin Noah, Pedro St Clair, Toufeeq Raubenheimer and the rest of the 20sk8 crew was essential to the growth of the story, and it continuously morphed and changed throughout the research period until the team had carved out something that proudly reflected them all.
“I have been described as a bit of a “mal naai” by the 20sk8 guys, and a few of my contemporaries, when it comes to the filmmaking process,” says Imraan. “I enjoy allowing the story to consume me, and coming out the other end with clarity – knowing that I have experienced as much as I possibly can so that the representation is as genuine as possible.” His main role in directing Jas Boude alongside Georgina was in keeping the process flowing between the cast, the crew, and the environment they were in.
Just as much as the storyline, the aesthetic of the film was a central point of focus. “There is a consensus within documentary filmmaking that the aesthetics is secondary to the story. But I don’t believe that. I feel that the synergy between the story, the aesthetic and the soundscape is vital,” Imraan explains. The intention of capturing the essence of the story is at the forefront of the cinematography for Jas Boude. The camera is moving constantly, and has agency to explore independently of the main story. As such, the camera is not merely an “observer”, but becomes one of the characters in the film. Over the four months of research the relationships between each cast member and the camera grew exponentially, and by the time principle shooting began the camera was merely one of the “brasse”.
As is often the case, throughout the process the cast and crew became a family of sorts and, in experiencing the unforced nature of how the story evolved, everyone relinquished their desire to predict a final outcome. The contribution that the team’s mentor Simon Wood made to the film is described by Imraan as the “Shiva” role. “He was not afraid to break down or destroy what we had so that we could rebuild stronger. Be it the storyline, character development or the first cut, he was consistently critical, which we are all deeply grateful for in retrospect.”
Jas Boude premiered at the Encounters Documentary Film Festival in June 2015 with one screening at The Bioscope in Maboneng, Johannesburg and another at Cape Town’s Labia Theatre. The film was shown in tandem with Noma Dyosopu’s Ndi Vumeni: Faniswe, a long-form documentary focussing on the experiences of black female performing artists in Cape Town’s white dominated industry. Each screening was followed by a Q&A session and in Cape Town there was a panel discussion with the cast and crew.
One of the main tensions present in Jas Boude is the structural racism that still exists in Cape Town, specifically in relation to the architecture of the Cape Flats and other lower income areas compared to the CBD. “In Joburg we had a predominantly black audience and we were met with utmost sympathy, as the audience accepted the premises the film was built on,” Imraan recounts. “In Cape Town, there was a clearer divide between those who accepted the premises of the film, and those people whose way of life, and by association their identity, were threatened by those same premises.”
For Imraan, the documentary is part of his ongoing goal: to push genuine South African storytelling, and to help create a network of African storytellers and voices who provide a welcome alternative to “the single story” that author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns of. The most recent film screening was held in Langa as part of a Youth Day exhibition, and the team is currently looking to screen Jas Boude in as many communities within Cape Town who could benefit from the vital discussion it sparks.
Shown below are some behind the scenes photographs taken by Imraan while conducting research for Jas Boude.
Directors: Georgina Warner and Imraan Christian / Producer: Fritz Bucker / Cinematography: Imraan Christian / Editing: Georgina Warner / Sound: Mitchell Roberts / Mentor: Simon Wood / Original Score: Bfake / Cast: 20sk8, Shuaib Philander, Tooth daBRuin Less, Keerin Noah, Toufeeq Raubenheimer, Wade de Monk and Wesley Shroeder