Pictures have power: The filmmaker revealing Mzansi to the world


Lebogang Rasethaba’s camera jostles on its strap as he jumps onto a bench, seeking a better view of his surrounds. He collects himself, absorbing the atmosphere. Lifting the camera, he searches for a trace of the enigmatic energy on which his film will rely. Rasethaba is after the essence of the South African people. And the filmmaker has made it his duty to give a true account of those whose stories he tells.

Growing up as a black man under apartheid, he encountered a media landscape that misrepresented his people, delivering damaging images of African inferiority. Rasethaba found self-worth in spite of this, and in the process learnt a valuable lesson: pictures have power. So he made film his career, dedicating himself to capturing authentic stories of black identity. But to make change in South Africa he would first have to leave. To grow his skill and shake up his perspective, he moved to China to do his Master’s in film.

Over five years Rasethaba worked through the language barrier, adapting as he went. He learnt a fair amount of Mandarin, but mainly communicated through his work. After challenging himself abroad, he returned to South Africa, ready to represent his people. His work has gone on to show at festivals around the world and receive international acclaim, but Rasethaba remains focused on reflecting the subjects of his films back to themselves in ways to which they can relate positively.