films that make a difference
The Lost Girls of South Africa is a timely and revealing feature length documentary that offers a privileged glimpse into what life is really like for young girls growing up in South Africa. It follows the stories of four girls, aged 11-13, who become victims of child rape, looking at the experience and its aftermath through their eyes and in their words. Why we made the film :
we were approached by Channel 4 asking for a film that explored some of the main social issues facing South Africa today, with the impending World Cup.
As we had already documented the sad relentlessness of the AIDS pandemic and its impact on children in Orphans of Nkandla, it was apparent to us that the issue that wasn't receiving enough understanding or coverage was the terrible affect of sexual abuse.
Having visited many communities in South Africa (on other projects) we were keen to enable girls to have the opportunity speak out – to tell their stories so they can be heard.
One of the greatest frustrations that these young women and their mothers have faced, and a source of considerable anger, is that no-one listens to them.
The general approach of society in South Africa is that if this happens to a young girl she should just keep quiet and accept that it is part of growing up. They were determined not to accept that they should be gagged. Indeed after my co-producer, Xoliswa and I first met with Ntombizanele, the youngest of the victims, she wrote us a letter explaining why she wanted to be in the film, because she was so keen for her story to be told and heard by a wider audience. She knew the film would not be shown in South Africa, but she was motivated by a very mature desire a) to have someone to whom she could tell her story in her own time and in her own way. and b) to raise the issue of child rape in South Africa internationally in the hope that pressure from outside may effect real change within the country.
The girls involved in this film, along with their mothers, were all extensively consulted about the implications of taking part in this film, and being identified. It was explained to them that while the film would not be sold to South African television, it was still likely that their pictures would be accessible on the internet in SA. We were very clear about this, but they were equally clear that they had a right to tell their story , and wanted to, in order to try to reduce the likelihood of it happening to other girls. I am humbled by their bravery and stoicism.
Deborah Shipley, London, May 2010