South African director and member of the British Academy Of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), Xoliswa Sithole has constantly attempted for a better world through her work. If her internationally-acclaimed documentary Shouting Silent (2002) documented three families affected by AIDS, her directorial venture Child of the Revolution (2014) chronicled Zimbabwe’s journey from colonialism to the present. Sithole, 50, is in Delhi as part of the jury at the BRICS Film Festival. She talks about her work, the importance of film festivals and women in cinema:
What is the importance of film festivals like the BRICS Film Festival?
The importance of film festivals is to showcase different art forms from different countries. Cinema is very important to build social cohesion and for nation-building. Very soon, South Africa will sign a co-production treaty with India, which will make it easier for filmmakers to have cross-cultural business.
Can you tell us something about your cinematic journey?
I started as an actor when I was very young and then realised I wanted to be a producer. So I worked my way up from being a receptionist. Now, I have two BAFTA awards and a Peabody award, and make documentaries on issues related to women, children and human rights.
You are a female producer, actor and director. How important is it for women to pursue these professions?
It is very important, as men are never going to give us the space. It is a very male-dominated field. As a woman, you have to create your own space. You have to dive in, make noise and go for what you want. It is important for women to be a part of this space, as we comprise half of the world population and workforce.
You are the founding member of Filmmakers Against Racism. Can you please share the vision of this initiative?
When the organisation started in 2008, there was a lot of xenophobia or Afro-phobia happening in South Africa. So filmmakers came together and made films to highlight the common culture and show that racism is a scourge that only destroys us as people.
Can you please talk about Yanaya — Gender Film and Dialogue Festival, which you started in 2015?
I take films that deal with gender content to rural areas in South Africa. It is more of a dialogue festival, where we talk with communities and activists. We particularly focus on the eradication of any practice which is gender negative.
What are the projects that you are currently working on?
I have just finished a documentary on the 1956 women’s march in South Africa. It was the most successful march organised by women across races, colour and class to protest against the pass laws in South Africa. My next documentary will be on Nelson Mandela and his global peace processes.