Welcome to Spling Movies

Welcome to Spling Movies

Custom Search
Banner
Banner
Durban Film Mart 2020: Interview with Teboho Edkins on 'Days of Cannibalism'


The virtual edition of the Durban Film Mart made it possible for people from across the continent to attend. Following closely on the heels of The Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival, which also presented itself in a virtual format, there was some cross-pollination particularly in the documentary section. Having watched all of the African documentaries at the Encounters festival, a series of special in-depth interviews with documentarians carried an organic appeal. Led by Nigerian film pundit, Wilfred Okiche, these discussions went deeper to uncover the director's motivations, behind-the-scenes stories and valuable details about the documentary film-making process.

Teboho Edkins is the writer-director behind the documentary Days of Cannibalism. The title may sound ominous but it's named after a local bar where the film takes place. Having lived in Lesotho, Edkins knows the culture and traditions, realising the current trend for Chinese-owned businesses to be buying up commercial space in the country. A country known for its tradition of shared wealth among cattle, there are parallels with the western genre as police, citizens and settlers find themselves in disarray and in a state of flux. The term cannibalism may not be as provocative as first anticipated, but it still represents the notion behind this surreal fly-on-the-wall documentary.

According to Edkins, he's representing themes around greed, globalisation, the "gold rush" and acts of cannibalism. The western vibration is strong in this film, echoing the recent African action drama thriller, Five Fingers for Marseilles. Days of Cannibalism has an unconventional narrative without any main players, using the environment to compel audiences. The western elements are there but this is more of a contemplative piece from a third person perspective, offering a number of pure documentary moments that are quite simply priceless. While these moments ring true, it was quite surprising to learn that Edkins was "controlling reality" at points with pure fiction too.

Discussing the finer points with Okiche, it becomes clear that the court room scene was fabricated. A critical juncture in the film, cementing the central dilemma, it's a powerful interaction that appears to have been filmed as it played out. However, as Edkins points out... it was done this way since the filmmakers were prohibited from shooting in a real court session. To accentuate the fictional sequence, they purposefully shot it with multiple cameras and traditional fictional framing. While a little earth-shattering for those who believe in the sanctity of pure documentary, it is still amazing how many real moments were captured in real-time... including the older man reprimanded his relation and the CCTV robbery.

Filmed over several years, it was mainly financed through France but received funding through multiple channels and dispensations. Taking a small crew to research, integrate and scout scenes... Edkins talks about the idea of creating the film 3 times: writing, filming and editing. Each process involves an overarching level of storytelling, allowing the evolution to take place and for the essence to unearth itself. After a screening in Berlin where some Chinese folk were in the audience, Edkins was surprised at their response and appreciative of their feedback with many citing his objectivity in his treatment of both sides. While Edkins is creating a politically-charged piece, he doesn't present his views at the expense of dehumanising or villifying the would-be aggressors. It's easy for Chinese to get visa, but not vice-versa. Delving into the fascinating first real encounter between both ancient cultures, it seems there's a documentary subject underlying the commercial investigation at play. Having had their views of each other's culture largely shaped by Western pop culture and stereotypes, it does seem to be a fresh opportunity for co-mingling and rediscovery.