Documentary: SCENES FROM A DRY CITY – a poignant piece of protest cinema

Two of South Africa’s most acclaimed documentary filmmakers, Francois Verster and Simon Wood, collaborated with the Academy Award winning American producer Laura Poitras (Citizen Four) to make the evocative short documentary on the Cape’s water crisis “Scenes From A Dry City”.

The film premiered at the world’s foremost documentary festival IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) in November 2018 becoming the first South African film in four years to be selected ‘in competition’ at the festival. Other awards include the top prize for Best Mini Doc at its US premiere at the 16th Big Sky documentary film festival and the film is eligible for an Academy Award consideration for Best Short Documentary in 2020.

Described by IDFA as ‘a film that is as visually stunning as it is urgent’, ‘Scenes From A Dry City’ reflects on the water crisis in Cape Town from different societal perspectives. Superbly edited by Khalid Shamis and a haunting score, it is a slyly humorous, empathetic mood film of protest that is both gently reflective and devastating in its consideration of the consequences of the water crisis and how the scarcity of man’s most precious resource affects the city’s complex social fabric of racial and economic inequality. Say Wood and Verster, “There had been a slate of journalistic films about the impact of the water crisis in Cape Town… We wanted to make a film that attempted instead, perhaps in a very tenuous way, to inhabit the perspective of water itself, its ultimate indifference to what is happening in the city, and thereby to try assess some of the deeper existential dimensions involved in the debate.”

In a first for South African cinema, the executive producer of the film is the New York based film activists’ Field of Vision, headed by Charlotte Cook and Academy Award winning filmmaker, Laura Poitras, known for her ground-breaking film about Edward Snowden “Citizenfour”. Field of Vision is a filmmaker-driven documentary production that is dedicated to making cinematic work allowing filmmakers to take creative risks and explore new ways of story telling. They focus non-profit forms of distribution for documentary and all their films are online for free to watch.

‘Scenes from a Dry City’ is scheduled to appear at many major North American festivals over the coming months but is available to watch free online today.

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