Unfortunately we live in a society where horror stories of women and child abuse being rape and sexual harassment are a frequent occurrence, sometime’s we have to talk the ugly and it’s a reality. Women and children are vulnerable, I read somewhere instructions on how not to get raped instead of reading instructions of men not raping, it’s strange how the victim is taught to exercise caution when in truth nobody asks to be violated. This year’s Durban film festival’s fiasco is interesting, after resignation’s were done because of disputes over Anant Singh’s ‘Shepherd’s and Butchers’ being the official opening film which now has been dropped for the Documentary ‘The Journeymen’. One of the filmmakers Sipho Mpongo has been found guilty of sexual harassment, in spite of this discovery The Journeymen remains the opening film. It’s rather curios that he will be celebrated in light of the news and ironic because a film such as Alison will be screened during the same period. The road is long..
‘Alison’ a story of a woman who went through a grotesque ordeal in the most violent of nature like many other’s, she however survived and lived to see justice served against her perpetrators becoming an icon and a voice for all women. 22 years later her story is told by Female superwoman Uga Carlini, an advocate for woman and a Shero. I sat down with the filmmaker, we spoke of how Uga and Alison met and her process in telling ‘Alison’.
Nthabiseng Mosieane: How did you come across the story?
Uga Carlini: It was in 1994 a big year in South Africa for obvious reasons as well as the same year the Alison story broke. It happened on the 18th December, during the holiday period. You need to remember during that time we didn’t have social media, no Twitter or Facebook and no cellphone’s so I didn’t hear about it. About in 1999 a friend of mine gave me the book Alison wrote ‘I Have Life’. In that same year Alison did a talk at my old high school. The attendance was huge and I was there, too far from her. It was in that moment when I decided I would tell this story one day. In 2008 I reached out to her but I was not ready. Than later in 2011 I won an award for a short film I did and I could feel I was ready. We met for the first time and after lots of cupcakes, connection and good conversation, we sealed the deal that I would be the lucky one to have the privilege to tell the story.
NM: So to be sure, you have the rights towards?
UC: I have the rights to the non-fiction story and the fiction feature. You know for years Alison received a ton of requests and letters from Hollywood. From Europe, big proposals from producers and she said no because she had not felt it was the right person. So we have had a real connection. It is a true privilege.
NM: I read and understand that you write female driven heroine stories. Why are you drawn towards that?
UC: I was always doing it but I had not realized and obviously being raised by a strong single woman. I gravitate towards it. It’s by default, by synergy, its automatic. I did not realize it until someone said to me, they like that I am focusing on female positivity.
NM: I, like many South African’s who found out about the Alison story can say that it is larger than life, unusual and really shook the country. How did you decide to tackle the way the story would be told?
UC: It is a hybrid film. It’s a two-fold angle. I’ve really known Alison deeply since 2011. I explored many ways to tell the story before I decided the angle I took. What fascinates me about Alison is her strong femininity. Surrounded by dark acts I have ever encountered in my life, she has been able to draw strength from her inner-self and part of her coping is that she is attracted to butterflies, mythical creatures, and has built this somewhat fairytale environment so if you go back to the original Disney films you will see how hard core they were for example Sleeping Beauty was raped by every prince while she was in a coma, in the original version. Snow White died an awful death choking on that apple. Little Mermaid shriveled alone and rejected on the beach after sacrifices she made for some guy. So there is an element in Alison’s world of magic. Essentially what I am trying to bring out is that violence does not discriminate, it’s a battlefield, it is bigger than colour lines. Crime and violence effects everyone.
NM: Now whatever anyone may believe, what cannot be denied and has to be acknowledged are the undeniable miraculous aspects of Alison’s survival. As far as medical understanding goes, she was not supposed to have lived that ordeal, what is your take on this?
UC: Without a doubt there was something that night that held her hand carried her to safety. It is as simple as that, yes there is self-belief but physically there was someone there in the spiritual realm helping her, there is no two ways about it. Alison acknowledges that as well.
NM: The film is receiving great reception in the media. Nu-Metro will be screening the film during Women’s month, what else is in store for this hybrid film?
UC: We have Encounters Documentary Film Festival then Durban International Film Festival both in June. There is the Humanitarian festival in Barcelona in December. For Women’s month Nu-Metro will be doing an exclusive screening of the film and a lot more amazing things during Women’s month. They are really going to get behind this project and bring it to the women of South Africa.
NM: Quickly touching on the perpetrators, are they still incarcerated?
UC: Yes they are still in prison even though when they were sentenced with a note attached to their folders stating that they not be released for the safety of our women. I can tell you they are unfortunately up for consideration for parole.
NM: I can’t understand, these are situations that continue to show how the justice system fails women. What are you hoping to tell with this film?
UC: This film is more than surviving rape, it is about self-worth. You are worth something. It is about the importance of being a parent and what you give your child. I want every person to feel that Alison is talking to them. It is about self-love and knowing you can rise above any situation.
NM: Well I feel this documentary will last a very long time. It is educational and very necessary, further highlighting violence against women and children and the injustice that it carries. It is not a story to grow tired of, there are victims every day.
UC: Absolutely. What is the solution against rape? It is simple, keep your d*@K in your pants when it’s not welcome. We have young boys we need to raise to be the kind of men we want to see and what the world needs.
NM: What can you say to females in film and to people?
UC: I want people to put on that Michael Jackson ‘man in the mirror’ song pick your version, play it loud and tell yourself you are awesome and you can be your own hero and don’t need anyone to be a hero for you. Be the change you want to see here. For female filmmakers out there, I like to mention an incredible woman Sandra Prinsloo, an iconic actress who defied laws, she is in her 60s now. She was the first white actress to kiss a black actor on stage, her and John Kani. The apartheid government terrorized her, she had to go into hiding it was insane, a true example of fearlessness. When we had dinner she said to me ‘darling if you push against the wall long enough it will cave in’ and that stuck with me through my career. Let’s support each other as females. We must and should support each other. My call is that, it is okay to like butterflies. The movie is girly and feminine, it is celebrating femininity and strength without excluding anybody. It is strong and real and after all, if Alison could do it, so can we!
Alison national release, 12 August Nu Metro cinemas – bookings open 10 June 2016.
Alison at these following festivals:
ENCOUNTERS FILM FESTIVAL- JOBURG & CAPE TOWN 2 – 12 JUNE 2016
CT: Fri 3 6.45pm Q&A V&A / Sun 12 5.30pm CN V&A / Tues 7 8.30pm Q&A Labia
Johannesburg: Fri 3 June 2016- 7pm Cinema Nouveau Rosebank.
DURBAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL- 16 – 26 JUNE 2016
17 June 20:15 Numetro
19 June 19:30 Nu-Metro
21 June 18:00 Nu-Metro
25 June 17:00 Nu-Metro
MZANZI WOMEN’S FESTIVAL- Opening Film- 5 AUGUST 2016.
WOMEN’S MONTH NU METRO EXCLUSIVE THEATRICAL RELEASE- 12 AUGUST 2016
DANCES WITH FILMS LOS ANGELES 3 – 11 JUNE 2016- First ever south African film to be selected.
ASIA PACIFIC FILM FESTIVAL 7 – 17 JUNE 2016- Winner of best Documentary. Competing for overall winner.
CAYMAN ISLANDS FILM FESTIVAL 1 – 4 JUNE 2016
HUMANITARIAN FILM FESTIVAL OF BARCELONA, PARIS & NEW YORK NOVEMBER 2016.