directed and produced by Kali van der Merwe
- the audience prize at "Cinema delle Donne", Turin, Italy, March 2003
- the jury prize at the Ismailia International Film Festival, Egypt, September 2003
- a golden "Stone Award" from the National Television and Video Foundation of South Africa (ntva), November 2003
Antoinette, Linda, Zandi and Shameema. Four young women, who grew up in four radically different worlds explore one topic: their sexuality. Through a series of sensitively dramatised, though sometimes disturbing interviews they recount pivotal moments of trauma and ecstasy in their sexual development. Along the way - interspersed with street takes of teens airing their views on sex - taboo subjects such as abuse, childhood sexuality, lesbianism, masturbation and HIV disclosure are addressed with refreshing candour. What makes their stories more compelling is the absence of victimhood and finger pointing: these women have the courage to confront the dark side and celebrate the joy of sex.
South Africa 52min
What the Ismailia Jury said:
Kali van der Merwe's outstanding and courageous work" Doing it" is about young South African women's sexuality in a time where the AIDS epidemic is making sex itself one of the biggest threats to the living of young lives. This film, in its breathtaking honesty and openness, is a gift from its maker and subjects to all of us.
What a critic has written :
Kali van der Merwe, who directed Doing it! is a sculptor and her documentary about the sexual coming of age of four young women shows some brave disregard for rules. One is that you don't change modes halfway: for example, she arms her subjects with video cameras and looses them on other young women. You get films within a film, like roe within a fish. It shouldn't have worked but it does.
Robert Greig - Sunday Independent October 5 2003
Motivation for making the documentary“South Africa has formed part of a “make belief” world. You ask yourself, what is important and why don’t we see or hear our own faces and voices in the media?”
Felix Grove 23
"The media should be the medium which can be used for us as young people especially girls to voice our views."
Adelaide Silika 19
“Doing it!” has the main purpose of raising issues and stimulating debate around youth sexuality and HIV/AIDS from a gender sensitive perspective.
There is an alarming trend in South Africa; HIV infection rates are the highest amongst women. There is grave cause for concern. With one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world we can’t afford to ignore the sex lives of youth, especially young women. Young women are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection because of sexual attitudes and the high prevalence of violence against women. A young woman in South Africa has much to contend with: Violence by male partners is a consistent feature of teenage sexual relationships, 39% of girls report their first sexual experience was forced (Love Life survey).
Sexuality is an under-explored topic in the media and this documentary aims to present it openly, honestly and in a way that is gender sensitive without dictating any solutions or being didactic. HIV/AIDS is one of the biggest challenges facing youth today and unless the myths, stereotypes, misinformation and culture of silence is broken we are going to continually see the alarming transfer rates of the virus. Youth do not want to be talked down to by adults when it comes to issues that affect them, peer education and counselling has proven to be remarkably effective when dealing with issues of sexuality and AIDS.
Youth have few role models in the media whom they can directly relate to and identify with; “Doing it” profiles four ordinary yet outspoken young women from racially diverse backgrounds who have grown up under difficult circumstances facing many challenges. These young women have had a lot to deal with in their short lives; abuse, HIV infection, rape, violent relationships and discrimination, issues that many other youth are currently facing. They have dealt with what life has thrown at them in remarkable and creative ways, turning adversity into strengths. These ordinary young women have survived extraordinary circumstances yet have maintained an inspiration for life. They are girls “doing it”, role models for all young people.
The making of this documentary involved training of young women in filmmaking skills. One of the aims and objectives of Other-Wise media with youth was to make awareness raising programmes while at the same time empowering those involved in the process, in media skills.
The inspiration for the “Doing it!” came from another documentary, “Who’s News?”, that Kali van der Merwe co-directed for Women’s Media Watch, a membership based advocacy group that works towards ending sexism, classism, homophobia and racism in the media. In “Who’s News?”, women criticise the way they are represented in the media. This brought to her attention how young women were particularly dissatisfied with the way they are being portrayed and expressed their discontent it with such vitality and vigour. They hated being patronised, they felt someone else was always talking for them, they felt it was the babes and the stars that got the attention and the ordinary girl didn’t feature and there was a lot of pressure to conform to unreal norms of physical beauty. “Doing it!” was made with all these issues in mind.
Kali van der Merwe, director of Doing it! goes on to say, “I also felt I wanted to make something that would pay tribute to young women in this country who grow up with extreme forms of violence being perpetrated against them. I wanted to show how these women had faced adversity with bravery and creativity, turning things around for themselves.”
Creation of intimacy in the documentary
Gabrielle Le Roux, the gender consultant and process advisor on the documentary, who has an excellent understanding of gender representation in the media, suggested to begin the process of making the documentary with a workshop on sexuality involving both cast and technical crew on an equal level as participants. The well known sexologist Marlene Wasserman aka Dr. Eve was engaged to run a 3 day workshop exploring all aspects of sexuality. This process was essential to the making of the documentary as it allowed the young women to explore difficult and sensitive topics in a safe environment with professional help. Because everybody had shared intimate details about themselves it made the filming process very comfortable and easy. Dr. Eve ran a follow up workshop and was also available during and after the making of the documentary to deal with any issues that came up.
As part of the making of “Doing it!” the young women received training in camera and interviewing skills. The camera training was facilitated by the director of photography, Mathys Mocke. Working together as a crew, the freshly trained women went into different communities in the Western Cape to ask youth questions about sex and to film their responses. Montages these sojourns were part of the documentary, bringing in a fun, behind the scenes element which added humour and worked towards demystifying the media making process.
Linda Sambata (25) Linda found out she was HIV positive when she went for an HIV test out of curiosity. It was an unexpected shock to find out she was HIV positive. Her cousin died of AIDS in an atmosphere of suffocating silence, although deep down the family suspected the awful truth. They refused to share cutlery and crockery with her. Linda decided she did not want to be treated the same way. She disclosed and educated her family about what it means to live with HIV. Today she is educating her community by talking openly about her status. Linda is often a guest on a radio programme about health at a local community station, “Radio Zibonele” in Khayalitsha. Her family respect and understand her after the initial trauma of coming to terms with her status. Her husband first abused her and then left her after he found out about her HIV status. Without a partner, Linda still has sexual needs and is not afraid to explore them. Linda bravely talks about masturbation, something she realises she has been doing since she was a kid. In black culture this is a taboo subject. Linda consciously explores stereotypes around being HIV positive and is not shy to walk around her community in Khayelisths in a t-shirt with “HIV POSITIVE” boldly emblazoned across her chest. People stop her and ask her if she really has the virus and if she does, why does she look so well and healthy? She realises there is a lot of educating that still needs to be done.
Shameema Williams (24) grew up in a Moslem household and lived different places in the Cape Flats with her family as she was growing up. When she first started rapping aa a teenager, she called herself “The Lady of Shame” - an ironical reference to her past sexual abuse from a family member and also religious leaders. She is still goes by the name of “Shame” but she is no longer feels shamed by her abuse, she has found her strength. Shameema teamed up with two other young women rappers Burni and EJ von Lyrick, calling themselves “Goddessa”. Their lyrics are strong, intelligent, critical of sexism and racism and raise awareness about the AIDS epidemic. Goddessa was commissioned to write a song for the documentary and we see the group writing in Shameema’s bedroom and recording in a local studio. The powerful song “Overcome” is a theme song for the film and expresses the overall spirit of the documentary.
Goddessa were relatively unknown at the time of making this film but have now gone on to achieve critical acclaim locally and internationally. Shameema has realised her own dreams and says, “I would like to be a role model to other young women to show them they can do whatever they want to do.”
Zandi Zwane (24) grew up in Soweto Johannesburg, from an early age she realised she didn’t like doing the same things as other young girls. When they were playing with dolls and being mothers, Zandi was more interested in the father role. The fathers could do far more interesting things, like going out exploring in the world and then coming back home. One day at the age of eleven while watching a movie on TV where two women were comforting each other, that Zandi realised what she wanted – a woman’s touch. Growing up in a black township was not easy for Zandi where boys raped young women, for fun or because they were different. Zandi protected herself by staying at home, almost locking herself up - not having many friends because of the dangers around her. Zandi’s first sexual experience came late in her life, she was 20 years old at the time and she is currently still with the same girlfriend. Sex is something beautiful for her and was something worth waiting for, this is Zandi’s message. Zandi tells us how she has accepted the fact that she is lesbian and her openness has helped her family accept her too. She tells us how she has come to terms with her body and is even reclaiming her femininity back now.
With this documentary Zandi came out to her community in Soweto. She said it was a very positive experience and she received much understanding and support, with her mother being very proud of her.
Anoinette Fouche (26) has had a very difficult life, abandoned by her mother shortly after her birth. Her father, separated from her mother, decided to take care of her. She was 5 years old when he died and this was the beginning of a terrible ordeal in her life. Her foster father sexually abused her from the age of 11 until she was 18. Antoinette managed to break free from her abuse through talking to a schoolteacher about it. This was not the end of her difficult life but at least she was free to explore on her own. A brief sojourn into prostitution made her realise that all was not well with her self image. Later on she met a wonderful man whom she is still with today. They had a romantic first meeting, drinking champagne in a hotel, but when it came time to use a condom, Antoinette pushed it aside. This has changed the rest of her life. She is now HIV positive but with her fighting spirit, she has refused to let this get her down,. Today she is an AIDS educator, helping others to come to terms with their status as well as letting them know the dangers of not using proper protection. Antoinette reveals to us how she is reclaiming her life and her sexuality back for herself from her long journey of suffering.
"Doing it!" received its first bit of money from a proposal written and submitted through an organisation called Women's Media Watch to the National Film and Video Foundation in 1999 (they were still the Department of Arts Culture Science and Technology then). This was the first bit of funding that kick started the whole process off but it took another two years to raise the rest of the finances to complete the documentary. Most of the funding came from the Open Society Foundation for South Africa, who at the time had a brief to support video productions. Other money came from the NACCW (National Association of Child Care Workers) and the Arts and Culture fund of the City of Cape Town. The funders saw the documentary as a valid intervention to raise awareness about sexual issues amongst youth.
Read about an article about Doing it!
Read about the process of making Doing it!
contact Other-Wise media for a copy of the documentary
This documentary was funded by:
The National Film and Video Foundation
National Association of Child Care Workers
CITY OF CAPE TOWN - STAD KAAPSTAD - ISIXEKO SASEKAPA
THE OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATION FOR SOUTH AFRICA