Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A 6th synopsis: Affectionately Known As Alex

Affectionately Known As Alex
A film by: Danny Turken, supported by NYU, Wits University and Luna Films

Running Time: 24 minutes
Post Production: in post currently,

After apartheid was established in 1948, and the government implemented the process of displacing black South Africans out of the city, the first official township in Johannesburg was born; her name, Alexandra. Unofficially, Alexandra emerged in 1912 and was proclaimed as a “native township.”

The township was proclaimed prior to the 1913 Land Act, and therefore, residents were exempted from the act and were free to purchase land. Despite the fact Alex is approximately only 12 km outside of Johannesburg, as a result of the lack of municipality administration and the lack of influx control, she quickly became known as “nobody’s baby.”

Throughout the 20th century, Alexandra endured gangster wars, a belligerent political culture, health hazards and a severe housing crisis. Dissimilar to other townships that landscape the city, the lack of housing in Alexandra was and continues to be the constant source of tension and frustration for both the residents and the community.

Initially, when I approached the idea of making a documentary on Alexandra, I was set on observing the Jukskei River and its relationship to the community. However, after spending more time in Alexandra and understanding the people, the film evolved into an observational piece attempting to understand the township and those who live and work in it.

Through the progression of the film, the narrative shifts from a harmonious depiction of Alexandra and unpacks the tenuous relationships that extend further beyond its “bonafied residents” (those living in Alexandra for several decades and whose families are from Alexandra) and those who have recently moved into the township. It is further complicated by the escalation of immigrants into the township compounded by the lack of homes, jobs and structural improvement, and eventually toward the xenophobia crisis the country is facing today.

Although the film illustrates the mounting tension within the community of Alexandra, further interviews with specific characters in the film—notably, the leader of the APF, the woman grilling chicken feet and the two men discussing the bureaucracy regarding applying for RDP homes—will provide a greater context and understanding of the origin and motivation for the turmoil and violence that is ripping apart South Africa and its people, and will do so through the voices of the people of Alexandra.

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