A selection of entrants from the Vuma My Community Connects initiative recently had the opportunity to attend the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival, allowing them to gain valuable insights into the film industry from a variety of industry heavy-hitters. “Attending the Encounters Film Festival has been incredible. I got to see so many other artists who are all doing amazing work,” comments Jonathan Lefenya, a creative artist and My Community Connects entrant. “Seeing all of these artists who we look up to on-screen in person makes them seem a lot more human and because of that, it feels like anything is possible for each and every one of us. I’m just grateful that Vuma has made it possible for us to be here and be part of this.”
The My Community Connects entrants were sponsored to attend a full day of events at the Festival, including documentary showcases of the country’s most inspiring filmmakers and artists, the chance to attend workshops to learn from the best, and a networking session.
As the custodian of the My Community Connects platform and an Encounters Film Festival sponsor, Vuma’s goal is to ensure that young, up-and-coming talented individuals across South Africa have access to valuable opportunities for professional and personal growth – calling on all Kasi aspiring superstars to create, connect and elevate their talent. “Having the chance to attend the Encounters festival allows these individuals to gain insight into and exposure within one of South Africa’s most eclectic industries,” says Vuma’s Brand Manager Mathilda Robertson.
“Creating this pathway for our My Community Connects entrants is one of the many ways we are going about adding meaning and value to their experience as part of this platform, but also comes back to our overarching ethos: Because we can, we must,” she says. “An important aspect of nurturing talent is exposing them to new perspectives and the wider industry that they form part of. We believe this contributes towards sustainability in the creative sector and ensuring more young creatives, hustlers, innovators and entrepreneurs are able to get a foot in the door.”
My Community Connects is a platform for the country’s talent to showcase their work to the world, allowing people from all walks of life, industries and disciplines to share their stories while driving economic recovery across South African industries.
Akido Malabela, founder of Malabela Photography and My Community Connects entrant who also attended the festival, says “Platforms like these are really important for young and talented individuals, especially those in townships who struggle with access to information and opportunity. Just as important is access to the internet for up-and-comers, who wouldn’t have the chance to benefit from opportunities like My community Connects and by extension the Encounters Festival, without it.”
Democratising access to opportunity
South Africa remains one of the most digitally divided societies in the world – a national challenge made more apparent by the onset of Covid-19 and resulting lockdown restrictions, which illustrated the lack of access to reliable, affordable connectivity that many people across the country experience.
This challenge extended to the entertainment industry too. While exhibitions like the Encounters Film Festival ensured the continuity of the shows by streaming them live for audiences to enjoy, many South Africans were not able to enjoy the showcase due to limited internet access.
“I think it’s important for creatives to have access to connectivity, as well as entrepreneurs and hustlers – anyone working in the creative space. We believe that connectivity is a way to democratise access to opportunity and to resources. We know that Vuma plays an important role in this space and look forward to having the fibre provider be part of our mandate to provide this to the community,” says Festival Director, Mandisa Zitha.
Encounters Festival panellist and director of featured documentary Lobola, A Bride’s True Price?, Sihle Hlophe, added,“I want to encourage all entrepreneurs, content creators, innovators and hustlers to get out there and check out My Community Connects and see how they can get their work seen and expose themselves to more opportunities.”