A vision to transcend bigotry and reach a realm where people realize their aspirations and dreams,soul spirit, South Africa's Weaam Williams, weaves her conscious story-telling voice beyond borders... as a poet,a writer,a filmmaker and a performance artist.
With a cinematic vision as an activist and Muslim woman, Weaam Williams, a screenwriter, director and poet , was anointed as a member of Film Fatales, a New York-based organization representing women directors.
She seeded Tribal Alchemy Productions, a visual medium platform specializing in video and photography.
Her directorial debut, Hip-Hop Revolution, hit the international scenes at Silverdocs in 2007. It won the Best Edited Film Award at NYC Reel Sisters Film Festival in 2008 and was broadcasted in 28 countries.
In 2009-2013 she undertook an independent filmmaking project for Southern African distribution.
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A Khoe Story Docu-Trilogy, is a three part documentary series about the language, genocide, and remaining culture of South Africa’s indigenous people.
A Khoe Story was officially acquired as material for South Africa’s high school curriculum, as well as universities as an awakened historical knowledge of SA’s indigenous people
Her latest iconic film, “District Six Rising from the Dust”, was initialized when she moved into District six with her cinematographer husband Nafia Kocks.
The vibrancy and culture of District Six is rooted in a personal story examining intergenerational pain and wealth dispossession. It reflects an aurally and visually rich perspective, with nuanced Cape Malay community moments.
Weaam Williams is currently working on a screenplay for a feature film and will soon start production for a short film titled “Two Hues” as a writer and director.
Meet #CreatepreneurAfrica’s Cape Town’s ‘Conscious Storyteller’, Weaam Williams
Tell us what drives you? What is your true passion in life?
I am passionate about telling stories, this I would attribute as my true passion.
I am an activist by nature and my documentary portfolio is inclusive of many human rights films which were inspired by people or causes I was passionate about at that particular intersection of my life.
My work ranges from “Hip-hop Revolution” to “Khoe Story Docu Trilogy”, a series about the history, language, and culture of SA’s indigenous people.
This series brought the genocide of the indigenous people into the
foreground in 2011/12.
I don’t stop being passionate about these causes, but rather allow communities to use my films for activism purposes. The Griqua Nation and other indigenous groups have used the Khoe Story extensively for lobbying purposes – for recognition of the “mother tongue” etc.
I do, however, as a story-teller move on to new projects and my most recent film “District Six Rising from the Dust” – is the first personal narrative.
I have undertaken to tell the story of my family being forcibly removed from District Six, and my own journey after being restituted a house awarded to my grandfather. This film was completed recently and will be exhibited in 2018.
It has inspired my community in District Six, and also encouraged a call to action. I am, however, moving onto fiction narrative projects. I am currently in production for a short film and writing a screenplay for a feature-length film. I am very excited about both these projects.
However, I cannot speak of them yet. I have a background in poetry and performance poetry. I stopped doing performance poetry when my film career took off as filmmaking requires a great deal of commitment and is all-encompassing.
I found very little time to nurture myself as a poet. However, I have a deep love for poetry and sometimes still write the odd poem when I feel inspired – however, it’s been a very long time since I have shared my poetry with audiences. I hope to do this again
How did you find your passion and how old were you?
At high school level, I had shown a flair for languages and writing – I enjoyed creative writing. I also wrote plays and got my friends to act in them.
I think I was about 14 years old then. I guess my passion as a writer/director started then. My abilities as a poet I discovered at 16, during the matric end of year holidays and when I started university. I started to explore writing poetry. I was very young at university and needed to process all of the information I was receiving, the cultural paradigm shift and poetry was my way of expressing what I was feeling as a young person, and trying to make sense of it.
Also, English Literature was one of my subjects and provided a platform to explore the literary greats and be inspired by them. My work as a filmmaker has a strong foundation in writing, as films start on paper with written concepts which eventually progresses to a screenplay in the case of narrative or a strong treatment in the case of a documentary.
What about your passion appeals to you the most?
Once again it is the aspect of story-telling. In the world of film, it
starts with a screenplay/ treatment and ends on the cutting room floor (editing). Fortunately, I have the ability to do both write and edit, which means I am a very involved filmmaker and storyteller.
I do, however, allow room for critique from donors, close friends, and colleagues. This is integral to the story-telling process of filmmaking as one tends to get immersed in the work. I, therefore, need that outside objective eye. My production company Tribal Alchemy Productions coined the term “digital storytellers” which has been hugely plagiarised I now see this phrase everywhere. What can I do?
I know that many have of my concepts have been copied and plagiarised – it’s a soul-wrenching battle which I choose to no longer fight. I now hold my cards close to my chest and only impart information of projects on a need to know basis.
What drove you to make money from your passions?
I have always been able to generate income from my writing abilities. It started as free-lance journalism and getting paid as a performance poet. My first paid job in the film industry was as a writer for the drama series Soul Buddyz.
When I decided that I would like to direct, it was also my convincing writing which allowed me access to funding grants to direct my passion projects.
I am now writing a commissioned screenplay which I will direct. I think it’s been small steps and an unfolding journey.
What kept you going when you thought about giving up?
To be honest, I have never thought of giving up. There are times when I feel really low and feel weighed down by circumstances, be it a rejection letter or financial strife living the artist life.
However, I have always been able to rise above this and keep chiseling, crafting and planning. I allow myself to experience my feelings, but at some point, I will pull myself up and say “Fuck them all – I believe in myself”.
I will think of a new plan and continue working. I also seek solace in
nature. I find after walking in the forest the weight lessons, and I am able to cope. Every single artist has to face rejection, and those of us who are not born into old money have to find means of sustaining ourselves and families with our passion. It is very hard work maintaining this balance.
My husband and I are both filmmakers and between the two of us, we
can take a production from beginning to end. We constantly inspire, comfort and sharpen each other to become better at what we do, to increase the value of our work as our cultural capital and future investment.
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What motivates you every day to be even more successful?
Of course, there is the need of self and seeking validation for work which
we have invested huge amounts of time and energy into. However, I am also
motivated by my children – as a co-breadwinner where both parents are
artists we have to strive for excellence as a means of survival. It’s as
simple as that.
What do you have to say to all of the people who doubted you?
To be honest, there haven’t been many. The ones who have shown doubt, are not doubtful of my abilities but rather holding on to a white-male power threshold or generally do not agree with my POV.
I have managed to work as a filmmaker for many years because there are so many people who believe in me and show this either via funding grant support, acquisitions of my films, commissioned work or supporting my work as audience members. To those people who never believed in me, it is their loss I will continue with my craft and continue to be the voice of the marginalized.
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The test really is whether the work resonates with audiences, and I must say with every single piece of work I have tackled, the communities affected feel that I have done their story justice. I am not going to sensationalize, white-wash or taint a story to gain props. I have a responsibility as a story-teller to do this work with integrity.
What advice do you give to aspiring creative is who look up to you?
My advice is to know what your strengths are and to focus on this. Continue practicing your craft even if you are not getting paid in the beginning, do it for the passion. To become better.
I am not saying you must work for free all of the time, but rather take the time to invest in yourself to master your craft. Be careful of who you share your ideas with, I have been bitten too many times.
The closest of friends can run off with your concept and duplicate it. The film industry is incredibly hierarchical be respectful of this hierarchy for someday, you too will be a producer, director, DOP or whatever it is you want to do.
However, do not allow anyone to belittle or exploit you. Stand up for yourself if you feel this is happening. Put in the hours and surely you will someday reap the benefits.