The Cement and Concrete Institute called for entries for the annual C&CI Moving Space Student Architecture Short Film Competition early in 2010. Invites were posted and submissions requested from individual students or group of students currently enrolled at an architectural, film, design or multimedia school. Students were invited to think outside the frame and to focus a critical gaze on the built environment, in particular the urban environment. They were required to submit proposals that will provide insight and/or investigate solutions to the issues thrown up by the themes of AZA2010 festival, which were Re-imagining the City and Event+City and within the broader purpose of the festival which was to explore architecture’s relationship with the diverse cultures and contemporary conditions of Southern African cities.
The Moving Space competition was established to promote the innovative use of concrete; to stimulate an inventive approach to moving image production; to raise awareness of critical architectural issues; and to challenge notions of sustainability facing our society in its built/unbuilt/wasted contexts.
Students were free to explore any genre of the moving image. Their proposals could be for a documentary, a mockumentary, a music video, a comedy, an animation, a stream-of-consciousness or even a corporate promotional video on concrete. They were free to experiment within genres, but had to be able to motivate their approaches conceptually. It had to tell a story that gripped the judges. In addition, students had to prove that they were able to deliver on both a technical and a conceptual level, all within budget and time constraints.
Six finalists were chosen amongst the presentations by the panel of judges which comprised eminent members from the South African film industry. They included independent film producers, academics and representatives from the SABC, M Net and the C&CI.
The completed films were shown to an estimated audience of 4500 at the Architect Africa Film Festival 2010 which visited all major centres in SA at selected Nu Metro theatres. The Architect Africa Film Festival also formed part of AZA2010 festival and delegates were treated to the Moving Image Premiere during the Jozi Nite evening event in Newtown, Johannesburg on Heritage Day. In addition, films will be made available and marketed to international architecture film festivals through the Architect Africa Film Festival and will be offered for broadcast to local television channels.
A Procura de Pancho: Winner (UCT)
I claim for architects the rights and liberties that painters and poets have held for so long.
– Pancho Guedes
Set mainly in Maputo, A Procura de Pancho (Looking for Pancho) is an experimental mix of animation, illustration and live action that follows the journey of a solitary student who has come to the city to explore the vibrant work of architect and artist Pancho Guedes.
Guedes is particularly well known for his innovative concrete creations – infusing the vibrancy of city life into his iconically mythical buildings. He is an ideal subject for a film narrative. His work focuses on the fantastical qualities of design and, unlike many architects of his generation, he has always defended the role of the architect as an artist and storyteller. Many of his built ideas originate from drawings, paintings and sculpture. He has said of his work that “buildings shall yet belong to the people, architecture shall yet become real and alive”.
The filmmakers intended to reread the cities of Maputo and Johannesburg, both home to Guedes’s sculptural buildings, “through what lies beyond and within their concrete forms – on the other side of their dreams”. For them Guedes’s ideas are alive. “They live not only in the buildings that they created, but also in the minds of anyone who’s ever been exposed to his work.”
Reclusive at first, the student travels through the city, visiting Guedes’s buildings and finding them in varying states of disrepair. “We soon learn that, however run-down the buildings appear, they are still incredibly vibrant. We realise over the course of the film that the buildings are still inhabited and animated by the ideas of their creator.”
Occuring slowly at first, but with increasing momentum as the film progresses, the buildings are gradually inhabited by physical elements drawn from Guedes’s body of work. These end up in the student’s backpack and alter his interactions with the citizens of Mupoto – and later with the citizens of Joburg.
Pretoria Philadelphia: Winner
(Open Window School of Visual Communication)
A little girl is alone on a swings in an old, deserted playground…
What ensues in Pretoria Philadelphia is another experimental short, utilising live action with 3D animation.
As she swings, the little girl recalls glimpses of an abandoned, decaying Pretoria – flashes of a dysfunctional city, cold and disconnected. She stops swinging and bends down to pick up a handful of crumbled cement, chipped from the edge of the slab the swing is embedded in.
She closes her eyes and blows the cement dust into the air. By doing so, she instigates a magical process of change and rejuvenation in the city. The film then revisits the same dysfunctional spaces as before, but now they are populated, expectant and ready for a breath of change.
An organic rhythm infuses the city. Buildings and humans alike pulse to a new beat. A matrix of community networks spreads across the map of Pretoria and the city is transformed. One after another, the buildings release organic components of their structure – concrete cogs and wheels, cement spheres and rings float into the heavens and fill the late afternoon sky with a dazzling and fantastical dance…
Time In Concrete: Winner
(University of the Witwatersrand)
“Everyone in Joburg lives their life in tune to a different beat, yet all our beats merge to form a rhythm of the city,” say the filmmakers in their motivation for Time In Concrete. The group of Joburg architectural students and filmmakers intended to test the Jozi rhythm by following the beat of two characters inhabiting the city.
They are a businessman and a homeless man. Each moves and functions at different paces with different driving forces, using the city to different ends. They move about the city, which is a backdrop and witness – but also part of the design of their beat. As such, the concrete city becomes a third character in the film.
The goal of the filmmakers is to test the identity of the city. “Both the homeless man and the businessman are generic representations of the polar identity of this city,” they say. “Can this polar relationship create harmony or will it end up in a cacophony?”
This cutting edge film is an exploration of “scales and contestations” in the city.
Sometimes Timmy is a giant shadow peering through skyscrapers. Sometimes he is a paper puppet engaging with a sculpture on a pavement. His perspective offers the viewer a new perspective, a new way of looking at the concrete jungle.
Timmy, say the Cape Town team in their proposal, is a “transitional object”. He is a crude graphic character that they have created that is “an instrument to test the city”. He’s “a body through which we are able to suspend disbelief and activate the imagination”.
Timmy takes us on an emotional journey that allows us to see city spaces through new eyes, with new possibilities and new potentials. This conceptual narrative wants us to relook at how we live and interact in cities.
Touching Benches: Winner
(University of the Witwatersrand)
Touching Benches is a short experimental film that looks at a day in the life of a “Johannesburger” concrete bench.
Using a quirky approach, this exciting team of students, artists, journalists and filmmakers intends to reflect on the problematics of public space in the concrete jungle. But they want their film to be part of the solution, offering innovative uses and renegotiations of inner city spaces.
“Walking in the inner city of Johannesburg it immediately becomes apparent that public space does not exist,” they say. “With the 2010 World Cup, the city placed restrictions on street activities, especially street trading zones, to give the pavements a ‘clean and less chaotic’ image. This has somehow left the city with a feeling of strict emptiness – a feeling that the city can no longer be used by its inhabitants, and does not belong to them.”
But, under commission by the city’s urban renewal strategists, two young architects and urban planners, Thiresh Govender and Eduardo Cachucho, have designed concrete L-shaped benches at street corners that “provide moments of pause; moments on benches to do that which is done on benches the world over”. The benches are, furthermore, designed so that traders can make use of them.
It is these benches that are the stars of Touching Benches – along with the South African characters that would typically engage in this kind of space (street hawkers, homeless people, corporate office workers and school children).
Through 3D animation, the film will show how the bench is “touched” and affected by the characters that engage with it.
No Hands Land: Merit award
(Big Fish School of Digital Film)
No Hands Land is a social documentary proposal that asks viewers to look at the magnificent structures that shape our built environment – and then consider the role of the construction workers who built them. Architects are lauded or derided for their endeavours, but the builders are all but forgotten. Buildings stand in a “no hands land”…
The team from Big Fish School of Digital Film in Johannesburg wants their critique to be a challenge to the authorities to pay tribute to the workers. And making a film about it is just the start. Ultimately they are calling for a new tradition to be adopted in South Africa: For workers’ handprints to be cast in concrete on building sites.
“This will serve as a reminder that they were involved in the creation of the magnificent cities that we live in,” say the filmmakers.
An overview of the short film productions reveals the talent and acute insight of our students and their ability to deliver strong social comment on the broader issues facing our cities and urban societies. These issues are strongly projected against the larger canvass of concrete which as a dominant material has helped to built our cities, its infrastructure and in the future will continue to contribute towards a more sustainable and humane environment- and a better life for all.
For more information visit www.cnci.org.za or contact the C&CI Information centre for copies of the film productions. By Daniel van der Merwe