The Wooden Camera

Die hölzerne Kamera
A South African township shortly after the end of apartheid. Madiba and Sipho, two 13-year-old friends, are playing on a railway embankment when a train rattles past and a dead body rolls down towards them. The dead man is still clutching his briefcase, which the boys discover contains a gun and a video camera. Sipho takes the gun and Madiba opts for the camera and, all at once, their fates are sealed. To avoid awkward questions, Madiba constructs a wooden box that looks like a toy camera and hides the video inside; he and Sipho head for Cape Town, where Sipho becomes leader of a gang of street kids. Both boys are thrilled by the city’s tower blocks, luxurious surroundings and life on the streets. While one boy films what he sees, the other tries to acquire his share of the rich city’s promise of happiness by indulging in a bit of stealing here and there.
One day, Madiba is filming through the window of a bookshop when he observes a girl, Estelle, trying to steal a book. Their eyes meet and, as Estelle leaves the shop, she deliberately drops the stolen goods into his hands. Madiba finds a message inside the book. The incident marks the beginning of a friendship between the two teenagers which Estelle is obliged to keep hidden from her parents. Her father, a well-known doctor, is a member of the white middle-class establishment – a part of South African society that has not yet come to terms with the end of apartheid. The only person to whom Estelle can talk is her music teacher, Mr. Shawn. As Madiba and Estelle’s friendship blossoms, Sipho begins to stray more and more from the straight and narrow.
by Ntshavheni Wa Luruli
with Junior Singo, Dana de Agrella, Innocent Msimango, Jean Pierre Cassel
France / United Kingdom / South Africa 2003 90’

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