Doccie review: Marikana’s women of hope

Luke Ahrens and Shannon-Leigh Landers
2017-07-20 16:31
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A scene from Strike a Rock. ~

Two student critics went to see a powerful documentary, Strike a Rock, that tells the story of two best friends living near the Marikana mine who start a women’s organisation, Sikhala Sonke (We Cry Together). Fed up with empty promises, they mobilise to demand more humane living conditions

Strike a Rock

Directed by: Aliki Saragas

Produced by: Anita Khanna

4 out of 5 stars

Strike a Rock is compelling documentary set in the North West mining town of Marikana. Arguably a sequel to Miners Shot Down (2014), Strike a Rock (2017), directed and written by 27-year-old University of Cape Town film student Aliki Sargas, details the aftermath of the brutal massacre that took the lives of 37 miners in August 2012. Sargas provides an intimate account of life in the mining town after police opened fire on the miners and left many women widows.

Primrose Sonti and Thumeka Magwangqana, the film’s protagonists and leaders of the women’s organisation Sikhala Sonke, hold a torch of hope for the women whose dignity has been assaulted in the brutal socioeconomic and political milieu of the post-apartheid state.

Strike a Rock effectively strikes a balance between exposing the intersectionality of multi-layered systemic oppression (race, class and gender) while attempting to restore the humanity of the women living in Wonderkop, Marikana.

This was achieved by focusing solely on their collective voice, thus positioning them as a symbol of strength as opposed to the tired narrative of helpless victims – a sentiment reinforced in the title.

The brilliant use of close-up camera shots establishes an intimacy between the audience and the film’s participants – though at times it could feel intrusive. This spurs emotion, yet forces the viewer to maintain a critical lens.

I felt that the ending lost some of its power by seeming to end several times before it eventually did. However, the vivid storyline and excellent cinematography more than make up for this minor shortfall. The fact that this is a female-led production should not be overlooked. – Shannon-Leigh Landers

A film that deserves to be seen

4 stars out of 5

Director Aliki Saragas is excellent at appealing to the emotions and the common humanity of her audience.

Rather than using shock tactics or focusing on the dismal state of the town (no electricity, sanitation, security) she elects to focus on the community of strong-willed women.

She conveys the tragedy of Marikana through a character-led narrative, allowing the audience to feel a genuine connection and sincere empathy rather than an array of guilt. Primrose Sonti and Thumeka Magwangqana are powerful protagonists in a story about the realities of South Africa’s inequality.

The charisma and spirit of these two women – one of whom will go on to be sworn into Parliament as a member of the EFF – is enough to uplift an entire nation, but all they want is for their community to be uplifted and for justice to be served.

This being the director’s first feature length film, there were some noticeable technical issues, which should be addressed. Several seemingly false endings, often followed by what seemed like insignificant pieces of information made it seem as if the film maker was trying to fill time.

The overuse of a handheld camera also detracted, in the end, from the overall viewing experience. Handheld footage definitely has its place, but its overuse results in a shaky image, which can be misconstrued as lazy film making.

These, however, are minor issues in a film that deserves to be seen and praised. It has the very real potential to raise awareness and spur much-needed change. – Luke Ahrens

• If you are in Durban you can see Strike A Rock on July 21 at 6pm at Gateway Commercial. You can learn more about the project at strikearock.co.za

• These review emanate from the Student Media Lab, a collaborative student-reporting project spearheaded by the Centre for Communication Media and Society in partnership with The Durban International Film Festival and the Centre for Creative Arts

The views in this article reflect the opinions of the student reviewers Luke Ahrens and Shannon-Leigh Landers. Landers is a master’s student at the University of KwaZulu Natal, who is passionate about feminist activism in the global South and identity politics

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