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IfeOluwa Nihinlola
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Seipati Qhooba

IfeOluwa Nihinlola (Africiné)

Irène Loebell, Swiss filmmaker

Life in Progress

Venter Teele Rashaba

Tshidiso Mokoena

KATLEHONG (Life in Progress), directed by Irene Loebell
A "glorious" Quest

Dancer and choreographer Jerry Bongai Zwane points to an arbitrary place and says, "To give back hope and dignity to the community." That is his way of clarifying the motto of Taxido, his dancing group. When he is however asked about the dignity of the boys and girls he slaps and pinches when they don't get his routines right, he sits back and hangs his clean-shaven head in silence. "People notice only the bad things," he later comments, "and sometimes, the bad things are smaller than the good things."
But Irene Loebell's KATLEHONG (Life in Progress) is not the story of Jerry, the reformed man who sets up a dancing class. It is the story of the hope and dignity of three teenage dancers: Tshidiso, the care-free playboy with eleven girlfriends; Venter, who worries about his mother and brothers, and dreams of attending a university, and Seipati, the self-acclaimed best dancer, who is kicked out of the group after missing two rehearsals.

‘Katlehong' is a Sotho word that means Progress, and Loebell, in footage shot mostly on a hand-held camera, shows the progression of the teenage trio over three years. The film, her second directorial work, is filled with wide shots of the township at night and close-up shots of the characters as they dress, eat, dance, cry and live.
Located thirty-five kilometres to the east of Johannesburg, South Africa, Katlehong still bears the scars of apartheid two decades after its end. The only sighting of white folks in the film is when they cheer the dance troupe's performance or at the University of Johannesburg.
There are moments in the documentary that could have been cut out to reduce the 95-minutes running time, such as a perfume-sampling session with the boys. The detail and context in some of the extra footage makes up for this though. The viewer is allowed to laugh at Tshidiso's struggles with taking an HIV test, which is the perfect comic foil to the inevitable doom that hangs over Seipati, whose body changes with pregnancy as she roams the streets of Katlehong in search of her father.
Venter takes the director Loebell to see his own absentee father in Lesotho (an act that angers Jerry), where green hills and strolling cattle offer a change of scene from the shanties of Katlehong. But in his desire to escape Katlehong, Venter appears to be setting himself up for disappointment.
Jerry's claim that the bad things are smaller than the good is debatable, because he treats the teenagers like mere tools in his quest for glory. The statement that the bad is way smaller than the good is however true of Irene Loebell's documentary film.

by IfeOluwa Nihinlola

First published in iREP 2015 Newsletter - Day 3, edited by Derin Ajao, with support of iRep FilmFest and Goethe-Institut Nigeria.

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   liens films

Life in progress 2014
Irène Loebell

   liens artistes

Ajao Derin

Loebell Irène

Markovitz Steven


19/03/2015 > 23/03/2015
festival |Nigeria |
iREP international Documentary Film Festival 2015
5ème édition. Thème : "Reinventing Documentary Filmmaking in a digital space" ("Réinventer la réalisation documentaire dans un espace numérique").

   liens structures

Big World Cinema
Afrique du Sud | Cape Town

Goethe-Institut Lagos (Centre Culturel Allemand, Nigeria)
Nigeria | Lagos

Recycled TV AG
Suisse | BERN

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