Cape town filmmaker, Kurt Orderson explored artistic expression in his early lifetime beginnings. After mastering crafts of his creations from his backyard in the Cape 'ghettos'(beyond Table Mountain),he ventured out into the world, rising up to becoming one of Africa's leading filmmakers.
Kurt initiated his career during his studies as a trainee at the SABC, ( South African Broadcasting Corporation), earning mere stipends for daily living expenses.
He defined his unique aesthetic voice and was soon acknowledged as a director and cinematographer on several key productions.
He founded his independent production company, “Azania Rizing”.
“Azania Rizing” is a tool for the African diaspora to rise up and map African legacies around the world on a global storytelling platform.
His major works include:
- Definition of Freedom, examining the role of Hip Hop in South Africa. It was screened at the Toronto and Vancouver hip-hop festival winning the best documentary award at the Atlanta Hip hop film festival
- Tribute to Lucky Dube, the tribute to legendary reggae artist Lucky Dube was filmed in South Africa, London, and Jamaica. It was awarded the Best Documentary Award at the Silicon Valley African Film Festival in 2013.
- The Pan-African Express, a journey of six young men, students from Atlanta who travel to South Africa and trying to understand people living with HIV and Aids. The film was funded by The Oprah Winfrey Foundation.
- Eldorado, a feature chronicles the journey of four friends in a Gauteng township in South Africa. It won the Special mention South Africa Feature film at the Durban International Film Festival in 2011
- Breathe Again, features Derrick Orderson, a marginalized swimmer from the Cape Flats who rose above his livelihood in an abnormal society of inhumane prejudice. It was screened at the Encounters film festival and Durban International Film Festival and several film festivals worldwide.
- The Prodigal Son
- Visibly Invisible
“The Unseen Ones”
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds” Bob Marley
Not in My Neighborhood explores spatial violence, current gentrification and the post-apartheid era. It compares Cape Town , Johannesburg and New York uncovering the threads that exist between people that are miles apart.
#CreateoreneurAfrica – The Soul Journey of Kurt Orderson
Tell us what drives you? What is your true passion in life?
What drives me is ultimately the great history and achievements of Africa, and I guess also within a broad order global perspective is my people that inspire me and drive me. I am from South Africa, a very specific region in South Africa, Cape Town.
More specifically I am from a township from that is part of a strip of what would be known as the “ghettos”, the Cape Flats, there is a rich history of storytelling, a great significance of the epicenter of what the foundation of the space, basically built on the legacy of apartheid. The legacy of architectural and apartheid spatial planning ideally separated people (which was an actual policy with the group areas act ) that had a great significance of breaking up families, literally…… families scattered.
I think what maintains a traditional oral form of storytelling, obviously remained significant, it inspired my body of work ultimately that’s my drive, Africa’s history, Africa’s achievements. One is inspired by Africa’s legacy, the epicenter of academia and Timbuktoo…storytelling and the arts and crafts of storytelling ultimately started there and spread across the globe.
My true passion….well I am very passionate about just listening, sitting and listening to people telling stories, whether happy or sad, ultimately passion for me personally, is driven by a deep desire of wanting to change the landscape of..change how people perceive each other. I think it’s those stories of those people who done it in the past and are still doing it, that’s what drives my passion. I am inspired by their passion, I think I apply it to my life.That for me is what passion is. Passion goes deeper, the engine or driving force for one to do something. I think ultimately wanting to do something is ultimately passion…the driving force…
How did you find your passion and how old were you?
How did I find my passion….well that’s an interesting question? I think for me when I finished high school, I was definitely inspired by the visual medium and visual arts. There was obviously the influence of television and Hollywood tv, I guess, but also my parents influenced me.
My father was a screen printer, which is ultimately a visual artist, although he didn’t call himself that, based on conditioning of the system that shaped him, apartheid South Africa. The idea that you were limited to do certain things when it comes to art black folks were deprived in a large historical moment of what the status quo says what you do and what you can become. My father is a strong reference to creating images and applying it to a t-shirt, applies similarly script to screen.
I think its an interesting analogy, metaphor for making films, taking a rich traditional medium and applying it to my work. I think that is how I found my passion.
How old was I? I think my first reference to start noticing…I don’t know if I can say noticing, more where I picked up the idea that I was passionate about the visual medium, I think I was maybe thirteen years old or fourteen…..
I was locked out of my parent’s house, of course. That time there were no cellphones. I’m from a family of a family of five kids, my parents both worked, I was locked out one day. I went to the backyard, my father had a workshop in the back of the yard, and I found a hammer and flat nose screwdriver.
I used the hammer and flat nose to carve out my name on a piece of wood and was quite impressed by myself. Wow, no one before that necessarily initiated anything like that. I wasn’t exposed to artistic expression and multiple forms of what artists do, I carved out my name, varnished it and made it immaculate. Later on meeting people who carved for a profession, creating amazing things. I always reference my first carving, that was my flame of inspiration for being an artist, use a visual medium for storytelling.
What about your passion appeals to you the most?
What about my passionate appeals to me the most… I guess the privilege to being a filmmaker, that being my passion but also to add to that, I feel very blessed to basically get paid for my passion, for my hobby… I would say …because we love film so much I will do it for free, that’s how deep our passion for cinema lies…and getting paid to do something you love, your passion is a heavy blessing.
What appeals to me most is the idea of shared history and shared knowledge, when someone allows you into their household to tell you their stories…. you being inspired and, relating on a level of “oh I knew someone who had a similar idea about this or that .”
I think that is what the driving force is …..sharing communal space, sharing narratives, sharing stories, sharing politics, sharing knowledge….that for me a strong appeal to my passion…
What drove you to make money from your passions?
What drove me to make money out of my passion…well you know in real talk, not to romanticize the question too much. We, unfortunately, live in a very capitalist society, we inherited capitalism,, were born into a capitalistic society…..that on one level, right,, that reality of things, we need to eat right, we need to sustain ourselves… in terms of monetary exchange we apple or tomato,whatever……what well I just realised that my craft, my talent, my blessing, I can get paid for it.
For me, there was a strong driving force around craft, like crafting what is my voice, what is my aesthetic, what does Kurt bring across in a common sharing space as a filmmaker as a storyteller. It was first defining my voice, after defining that idea, that is when I felt to make money.
People want to hire you, because they want that aesthetic that you ideally represent, that was my passion for making art and getting paid for my art, as an independent filmmaker, as an African filmmaker, things are rough out there…and we want to tell our own stories on our own terms, the system itself makes it very difficult for us to sustain ourselves. I need to work like a plumber who works with tools and I need to buy those tools. That is the reality of things
When was the first time you were paid for your passion?
The first time I got paid for something… I can’t recall exactly when that was when that moment was…there was a few moment I think. I think I worked on a television show and I was a contestant, but I also worked on a show. It was a show on SABC2, I was like 18 or 19.
We were trainees and there was a little stipend that they paid us for traveling money or whatever. It was for generic work on set like organizing cables and assisting the floor, production. I remember very little , but that’s when I realised you can get paid for this. I was still studying at that time as well.
What kept you going when you thought about giving up?
What kept me going. I have come through multiple crossroads moments asking myself is this really sustainable, what I do, filmmaking? Filmmaking is really hard, difficult, expensive artistic form to choose. A painter can get some canvas and some paints make a killer piece, get to an art market for a million and boom there we go
For filmmakers, the reality of getting a camera, getting all the equipment you need, and then on top of it, getting a team to operate the tools, that’s a whole process on its own. These things are hard when you off the grid and not part of the mainstream in the system and don’t necessarily want to be part of it.
That’s a very conscious choice, you can just join tv and become a commissioning editor, produce for television and things will be different, it will be a completely different narrative, everything is there,, there is funding for you and they hire you.
Food, clothes and shelter have no politics.
As an independent filmmaker or producer, it is very difficult… I only recently mastered the art form of really raising money for my films, for many years my films were independent, self-funded at times.
Now its like I understand more about the industry, how to write the right proposals, and apply to the right people and getting the money and managing the money.
When you at the lowest moment at the crux, paying rent, paying teams, paying crews, and rejections. Rejection is a big thing for filmmakers , filmmakers are sensitive beings, we are fragile as well in this…. broken world
These are all the challenges that come on your journey, it applies to life as well… life ain’t easy. The world is not nice, the world is cruel, the life we find peace and sanity within ourselves, the people close to you. There are your therapists, they are your motivational speakers, they push you and say we believe in you, that’s what keeps me going.
What motivates you every day to be even more successful?
What motivates me to be successful, what motivation every day. Whats the motivation? I think this idea that, on one level is that African history, African stories were for the longest time ever was told through the voice of the colonizer and the aesthetic and the lens of the colonizer…..
These were told in a biased fashion…for me now, as a fellow African filmmaker, it is our duty. I feel strongly for film to be part of the restoration process, the healing journey that we are experiencing and going through as black people across the globe and the trauma that we collectively experience.
How do we heal? What are the healing mechanisms? Now to be honest with you, we don’t have a clear answer to that question. I feel collective communal sharing through a very powerful visual medium like television or film, then you can project to the rest of the world and share that and say in order for us to be this idea of one world and one shared history.
Everyone has to have the opportunity to share their stories through there own POV or point of view, I think that’s powerful ways of sharing. We all have common stories. We share a common history of people all over the world which ultimately makes us human.
Racial ideas and ideology, culture and religion etcetera, are just all divisive mechanisms put in place for a form divide, rule and conquer….not to be cliched, we have the same blood and all of that. I have transformed, transgressed that phase. I have passed that idea
Anger is fine. Anger is important. We have to be angry. We can’t all just hear I am sorry and forgive right now,
What if I don’t want to forgive you right, now, and maybe I want to make a film about that as part of the idea of forgiveness, as collective forgiveness.
That makes film become an interesting mechanism and medium, for multiple purposes. I feel, personally, we can use film a methodology of social healing for healing the self and healing communities.
What do you have to say to all of the people who doubted you?
What I have to say about all the people who doubted me…interesting question. I always think about, one person comes to mind, a schoolteacher.
I wasn’t necessarily the greatest student, to be honest in high school. I probably could have done more. I was like, reckless and mischievous. I would say, I gave a lot of trouble.
Was I a rebel? Not sure, I don’t want to throw those words around. One teacher just didn’t like me. I was thinking about her the other day,
I think you always doubted me, I don’t think you ever believed in me, and now that my work is out there in the mainstream? I wonder if she saw my name out there. I wonder what she would think, after seeing what I had done.
I don’t want to reference people that doubted me. I am not going to make a film for people. I make films am driven to or inspired to make. I don’t care about whether people agree with my standpoint, I love those who love me on the real level, beyond blood, blood relatives. My family is universal. I am very blessed. We share this brokenness.As a broken people, we come together and we form this path of healing, the heal of our wounds….
What advice do you give to aspiring creatives who look up to you?
What advice do I give to those aspiring creatives that look up to me?
The advice ideally would be to always use motivation. The idea of keeping it moving or just do it. Life is about the idea of inspiring the other, inspiring other people. I think for me, that is what life is about. Me inspiring other people and continuing the human change of inspiration.
One has to know your craft, know your blessing, identify your blessing. But also knowing that this is a very complicated world that we living in. There will be multiple stumbling blocks with a lot of us. You carrying the torch, you carrying the great torch of your ancestors. You dont have a choice , you have to keep that torch alight. That is the flame, the driving force, the fuel.
More important is to have a voice. Have a political voice. I don’t mean party politics. Having a geopolitical view of the world and its complexities. An understanding of global politics. Deciphering the bullshit of what the news tells you, projecting that in your work. Be that change you ultimately want to see.
What you see is what you see. What you know is different