Today we chat with a German filmmaker who was inspired by South Africa to make a beautiful short film. Ladies and gents we introduce you to Parker Ellerman. But before we get started with the interview, take a look at the powerful short film.
I am a filmmaker. I live in Los Angeles and Berlin and have been visiting South Africa and Cape Town frequently for many years.
The short film “The Runner” Is about a young South African child who pays a high price to save his mothers life. What inspired the story?
My wife. As we planned our first joint trip to South Africa, she was very concerned about the crime rate. Of course, I calmed her and assured her that I never faced a dangerous situation at any time. Subconsciously though, it started working in my head. The crime rate in South Africa is extremely high and that’s a harsh contrast to the beauty of the country and, most of all, to the wonderful people I have met during my visits. Of course, you are not born a criminal. But when you grow up in poverty and in an environment that does not offer you a fair chance to improve your situation, it is in human nature to take action. I thought alot about my privileged life and asked myself how to possibly enjoy traveling and visiting South Africa, while at the same time people are fighting for their lives. A couple of days after my wife told me about her concerns, I woke up and had the basic idea for THE RUNNER in mind.
The short film speaks a lot of the issues we face in South Africa, how did you get such strong insight in a nine minute film?
When you comment as a foreigner on the inner situation of another country, it always gets sensitive. On the other hand you have kind of a universal responsibility as a filmmaker. Of course, my team did some intensive research about the situation also with the support and the insights from locals and eventually from the MylifE foundation. I am absolutely aware of the differences between Townships in Cape Town and say Favelas in Brazil. I know that there is a public health care system that provides free basic medical services also thanks to the hard of work of the people who work at clinics in the townships. However, there is a long waiting list for surgeries and if you have an emergency there is no ambulance that picks you up from your Shak.
The second issue is about the increasing number of orphans in South Africa – as described in my answer below. Our hero not only wants to save his mother, but also himself. If he loses his mother, he will lose his Shak and he will become a homeless orphan trapped in poverty. This does not justify murder but it could happen. So the best protection against crime is not more police but less poverty. Basically, the story of the RUNNER can take place in any country where kids suffer from poverty.
Tell us about the MylifE Foundation and how you linked up with them?
During our research we met Linzi Thomas. She is the founder of MylifE and provided us with some striking facts and insights into the work of her foundation. Here is a brief summary:
800 children in South Africa are orphaned every day.
In 2010, more than four million children lost at least one of their parents.
Many of these children are severely traumatized by watching their parents slowly waste away and die. They are left alone, forced into begging and prostitution. They end up on the streets, becoming violent and addicted to drugs. When you are hungry and you have to care for younger siblings, school is no longer an option. The trauma of orphan hood not only compromises a child’s emotional and physical health, but also the prospects of its future.
MyLife works with at-risk youth and children in Cape Town – those living on the street without hope or support. It was established in 2002 by Linzi Thomas, and since its inception has successfully healed and employed more than 300 youth – moving them from the city’s pavements into full-time jobs, independence and a “normal” life.
The Mylife Foundation has been working on the sustainable development of the MylifE Village concept for the past 6 years. A couple of months ago, after a long trip they finally arrived in Hogsback – where they are setting up the first ‘pilot’ Village.
What projects are you currently working on now?
Right now, I am working on a feature film script version of the short film “Two Friendly Ghosts” which I wrote and directed in 2010. Two Friendly Ghosts is about a fictitious second encounter of James Dean and Donald Turnupseed, the man whose car killed James Dean. In a broader sense, it is also a story about being guilty or not guilty.
Is there anything thing lined up for South Africa for the future?
Not yet, but I will keep coming back to South Africa, stay in touch with the wonderful people I have met and also try to support the work of MylifE. Actually, my wife will join me. And who knows, maybe I will also write a feature film version of THE RUNNER. The story’s potential is strong.
Where can our readers view your work and connect with you?
Official website: therunnerfilm.com/
Director’s website: parkerellerman.com/
The Runner on facebook: facebook.com/therunnerfilm?fref=ts
Parker Ellerman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Parker_Ellerman
Parker Ellerman on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/parkerellerman
Parker Ellerman on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/ParkerEllerman