I was born in apartheid era South Africa in 1965 and spent my formative years living in the bush in the middle of nowhere (Broederstroom) a tiny town near the Magaliesberg Mountains. My grandfather named his property: “Bundu” a word meaning the wilds; a distant or wilderness region.
My childhood was strange in that I grew up consuming a collision of cultures. My first books as a child were Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa’s “Indaba my Children” & “Africa is my Witness”. Disney came much later! Then I devoured a mashup of “Jock of the Bushveld”, the writings of Herman Charles Bosman and then Charles Dickens. I developed a deep appreciation of African and Western European Culture.
In my early years I experienced a number of traumatic events and saw things that deeply disturbed me about South Africa. I couldn’t quite make sense of why black people were seen as inferior and were thought of by some as little better than animals. This inequity plagued me and caused me to question many things. Why was our country like this? Why did some religions support this? Why? Why? Why? I was a troubled and serious child. My burning questions just grew stronger... why did people treat each other this way? Why was human life so expendable? Why was there so much hatred?
When I was 9 I had a life changing experience. My parents took me to see an ‘African' Musical in Johannesburg, a 90 minute drive from the bush. It was called "Ipi Tombi". I loved it! I asked my mother if she would get me a cassette of the music so I could keep listening to it. She obliged. I went back to Bundu and for the next few weeks, I wore that tape out... playing it again and again.
"Ipi Tombi" was a Western re-interpretation of Tribal drumming and singing, but still, it rocked my soul. I found a bunch of old metal cake tins in the kitchen and turned them into make-shift drums. I stared out into the beautiful bush, played the cassette and banged on my ‘drums’ non-stop.
At a certain moment I remember being filled with a staggering feeling. A surge of energy moved up my body and poured out of my eyes as tears. I’d never experienced anything like it! The music pounded in my ears and my heart exploded with tingling joy! I came to know this feeling as joy and love. As the tears poured down my face, it occurred to me that if everyone in my country could feel this feeling, they would never hurt another person, say an unkind word or want to kill someone. Perhaps this was the solution for my country? For all the hate, all the discord, the racism and dehumanization.
I dreamed up the naive plan to build really big speakers, to allow other people to hear this music. I realized I lived in a valley and the sound would have to go over the hills. Also, I realized it was an 8 hour drive to the ocean, so these speakers would have to be MASSIVE. Skyscraper MASSIVE. If only the whole country could hear the music and feel the feeling I had, everything would be better. This thought consumed me for many years.
Needless to say, I never did figure out how to build REALLY BIG speakers. BUT, something wonderful happened when I was 13. I was in Lisbon, Portugal with my parents and I had the great fortune to see that ‘little space opera’… STAR WARS!
I watched this incredible film with my mouth hanging open. When it was done I walked out deeply involved with my own private thoughts. My parents were trying to figure out what I was feeling. I was stunned. Not just about the film AND the story AND the FORCE… but because I had found my speakers! I had found a method to reach the whole world. MOVIES!
From the age of 13 onwards, I became obsessed with being a film-maker. I fell in love with making movies!
And that’s how it all started!