Today we have something a little different for you to read. I’ve sat down with Valentina Fedonos who is the woman behind a new documentary that focuses upon homelessness and gang culture in South Africa. The documentary looks at a group of young people who through a street football program have set about rehabilitating themselves, attempting to turn their backs on the gangs and drugs which used to rule their lives. Valentina and I talked about why she chose to document these people, what it means to the community and also how you can get involved via kickstarter. Read on for our interview…
Hi Valentina, thanks for sitting down with me today! How are you?
Hello James, thanks for having me! I’m great! Crazily busy but in a good, productive way …
Excellent! First of all could you tell us all a little about the kickstarter project and why you have set up the fundraising appeal?
Well yes, I have been following this story since 2013 and I feel that it is about time to share it with people and allow the narrative to have some impact on people who are going through similar situations in their lives, or even people who just need some source of inspiration. Homelessness is dangerously increasing lately but we still choose to look the other way. I started this kickstarter campaign (here) so that I get the funds to film part two of my documentary, and also pay for the post production of the film. And also it’s for another very important reason; kickstarter is a platform which attracts many people and through that I am hoping to raise awareness about what we are trying to do and urge people to get actively involved with the project. Turning Point is not a documentary that one watches from his couch, I see it as a call for action.
And how did you first get involved with Oasis Reaching For Your Dreams and this story?
Accidentally. I’d been researching homelessness since 2008 and wanted to do a film about it. It was my personal contribution to something that bothered me a lot and scared me, still does. It can affect anyone. Me. You. Especially after the recession in Europe in 2008. I was trying to find a way to raise my voice but I couldn’t; I was just a unit in this huge mass of repressed people. And then it hit me; well I have a camera, I should just grab it and DO SOMETHING!
I found myself in Poland for another project and met Oasis and my characters. I had no intention to tell their story but we started talking. And then this guy, didn’t know his name at the time, started telling me about his tattoo and his story. He almost burned his mother alive because he couldn’t think properly because of what he had consumed…. Then whilst his eyes were full of tears I could see that he had deep regrets for who he used to be. He wanted to help kids not to go through the same things he went through. He told me that he was making his own drugs at the age of 11 and he was a dealer since he was 9. Because the law cannot convict minors kids are targeted by drug barons and get involved in this crazy circle of crime. Kids should just go to school and play. That’s what I believe. I thought; you know what? I’ll help you, we’ll tell your story, and I’ll do everything possible to be honest in my filmmaking. And then we started talking with Oasis planning everything. We are like family now.
Yes, since day one of our first meeting. The plan was to allow some time for the characters to develop and to see if they’ll manage to get away from this rotten situation. I also wanted to see them actively involved in their community and witness first hand Oasis community work. We are also planning a visit to the bad areas of South Africa where the characters used to hang out and try to blend in and see whether the current situation with crime is a product of the corruption. The story is told in an observational style, we do use some interwoven interviews though where necessary.
And how much contact do you have with those who have already moved back? Do you know much about their stories?
We are still in contact. They talk to me about their dreams and issues. Sometimes I even talk with their wives who are often pissed off with their husbands and it is a joy to have such a communication! Some of them are back in trouble and some are doing exceptionally well.
The project is doing well so far it seems! What sort of a response have you been receiving from people you’ve discussed it with? Have you had any feedback?
The interaction with people has been an unexpected and amazing experience! I wont lie; I couldn’t have dreamed that a documentary in progress could have been a tool to power such deep and meaningful conversations. People are approaching me and telling me their stories and getting curious about the development; how it started, what’s next and what I am planning to do with it … That’s the filmmaking I want to do, the kind of filmmaking that will power up conversations and maybe change something we currently don’t like. I know I might come across as a romantic but … sometimes we need to be.
I have no option; this campaign should be a successful one. And I am reaching out to people and asking for their help to achieve that together. The reason we need to do this is because I deeply believe we can positively impact the current situation, and on top of that we’ll make Oasis work known and that maybe will open some doors for them in terms of funding so that they will expand their actions in the community.
So it’s a real do or die mission then…. Finally, do you have anything else you would like to say to potential supporters? How else can they help the cause?
Dream big! All the positive changes started because ten nutcases like ourselves gathered together and decided that there is something they don’t like where they live. We can do this. There is a mountain of work ahead of us but nothing comes without effort.
There are two ways you can help. Firstly you can donate to our kickstarter and get some rewards depending upon your donation whilst also staying involved in the development of the project. Secondly you can share and talk about Turning Point in order to help people find out about the campaign. Ideally you’ll do both but whatever the case I am already massively grateful to you!
Thanks again for your time today! I wish you the best of luck!
Thank you so for giving me the chance to talk about my debut documentary. Hopefully we will make it and I will see you in a theatre!
And that’s Turning Point folks! I hope you’ve found Valentina’s interview interesting and will consider helping the campaign out one way or another. For everyone who is interested please visit the kickstarter page here.