by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki) Brand South Africa takes a calculated risk in a series of mini-documentaries, produced by The Odd Number and director Anthony Bila of The Rudeboy Collective, by looking at some of the negative aspects of South African life. But the quick-flicks flip each downside up in a series that sells a strong, positive message for the country we love to call home.
Brand SA is an organisation that is responsible for promoting our country’s image overseas and locally. But this nation-branding effort is about more than just tourism. Building South Africa’s national brand and reputation is complex — a broad discipline aimed at luring foreign investment, facilitating trade, improving private-sector competitiveness, and even securing geopolitical influence.
Part of the strategy is to foster national pride, so that each South African becomes an ambassador for the country, whether at home or abroad. To this end, Brand SA has worked with The Odd Number to create a campaign, #InspiredByMyConstitution, that is South African to the core but not in a clichéd way. Real South Africans are featured in a series of mini-documentaries that tackle topics such as gang warfare, freedom of speech and xenophobia.
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The first short film is set in the Cape Flats, an area renowned for gang violence, and a major contributor to Cape Town’s ranking as SA’s ‘murder capital’ — and one of the world’s most-dangerous cities. The film is narrated by the principal character, Imraan Christian. He describes life in the tenement-town as a place where youngsters “don’t have a lot of choices”. During his commentary, there is a montage of life in Hangberg, Cape Town. The music is ominous and the visuals suggest a dangerous environment, with fast-paced cuts and anonymous people moving through frame.
“It’s either the light or the dark,” Christian says, and the camera cuts between running feet and close ups of bodies with tattoos. “If you want to survive, you dala what you must.” This is Cape Town slang for “you do what you have to.”
“So I did what I thought was right,” the commentary continues, and this is followed by a montage showing Christian meeting some shady looking characters, and getting what looks like a gun from them. He is then seen back at home, cleaning the device. It’s all filmed in close-up, so one never gets a clear view of what he’s doing, but the implication is that he is doing something illegal.
Christian is portrayed almost as a gunslinger in the next sequence, the camera following him as he walks between the tenement buildings. He comes face to face with some other young men, and his voice says, “This is where I learned to shoot.”
His hand reaches into his belt, and he pulls out a cine camera, and adds: “A skill that has allowed me to tell our stories, and a skill I will share with the next generation.” Now Christian is filming his friends, and the mood changes, with the music, to a more-upbeat tone.
“I’m Imraan Christian, and I’m backed by my right to freedom of expression,” he says, over images of smiling faces. “Salute to the Constitution for having my back,” he says in front of a mural depicting school children holding cameras.
The mural is part of #HealOurHome, a project Christian created, to bring about a conversation about violence against women and children. Done in collaboration with the Harvest Youth Project and Artlab, the project will be taken throughout the Western Cape.
Just looking at Christian’s Facebook page, it is clear that Brand SA has chosen wisely. This young activist is someone who will be an ambassador and example for the youth of Cape Town in a long-term, sustainable way.
Right to human dignity
The second film in this series has also just been released. It is a harrowing look at xenophobia, from the point of view of a Malawian hip hop artist, Gemini Major. For him, the Constitution represents his right to human dignity.
The style of filmmaking and editing borrows from the ‘edgy’ hip-hop aesthetic. Colours are super-saturated and contrasty, and the music drives a frenetic pace that creates a sense of youthful energy and excitement.
But the power in these documentaries is #InspiredByMyConstitution. The South African Constitution has been recognised as one of the world’s most-progressive. It is the anchor that allows all South Africans to depend on their basic human rights, equality, freedom and justice.
Thank you, Brand South Africa, The Odd Number and The Rudeboy Collective, for reminding us in such a powerful and uplifting way, that we have much to be proud of in our constitution, and our country.
Ad agency: The Odd Number
Executive creative director: Sibusiso Sitole
Copywriter: Ntando Msibi
Art director: Monde Siphamla
Strategist: Sifiso Zondi
Account director: Siphokazi Mestile
Production company: The Rudeboy Collective
Director: Anthony Bila
DOP: Daniel McCauley
Ad of the Week, published on MarkLives every Wednesday, is penned by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki), the CEO of Ornico, a Brand Intelligence® firm that focuses on media, reputation and brand research. If you are involved in making advertising that is smart, funny and/or engaging, please let Oresti know about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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