Moving Pictures: Steve Jones, Afri Cine and the Culture of Doing it Yourself

For more than a decade, Steve Jones has been contributing to the local creative scene in the biggest and smallest of ways. His latest project, Afri Cine, is a monthly pop up cinema that focuses on bringing the best movies that you won’t find at your local cinema to our shores. Mitch Harper has a chat with the cultural curator below.

 

 

Durban has a deep connection to film and cinema culture, even beyond being home to arguably the largest film festival on the continent, the Durban International Film Festival. It goes back to the Avalon cinema in the Grey Street Days, to the smaller setups like the old Drive-In (ask your parents) and Cinema Thursday; in fact the city is the hometown of a fair amount of the industry and cinema dynasties like the Moosa and Singh families. It’s wild to think that despite this, the city doesn’t actually have a cinema or even a venue to watch anything not from the mainstream machine outside of DIFF. You’re probably internally screaming “wrong” right now, and technically you would be right, but on this occasion you’re wrong. Outside of the franchises of Ster Kinekor and Nu-Metro housed in malls or the Moosa’s cinema in that poor imitation of 50’s Miami called Suncoast Casino, there wasn’t shit until the first Afri Cine screening in March of 2017.

 

Afri Cine is a monthly pop-up screening programme that offers audiences the opportunity to watch local and continental award winning feature and short films, sprinkling a live musical performance, making use of the city’s alternative spaces. A successful first year saw the aforementioned screening of Hajooj Kuka’s award-winning Beats of the Antonov at Fortune Coffee, and eventually end off with DIFF’s 2017 Best South African Doccie winner Strike A Rock at the KZNSA Gallery in November. With continental classic Timbuktu and Sibs Shongwe-Le Mer’s excellent debut Necktie Youth featuring on the programme and room to get better; Afri Cine has become the city’s best and most necessary source of films if you’re not interested in The Rock’s latest post-wrestling scheme. It’s the brainchild of freelance designer, event planner, curator, musician/sound designer; general all round doer Steve Jones. When we take a look at his history, it makes sense.

 

Despite his age and youthful appearance, you’re likely to know Steve from his many endeavours in the city and its history. Whether it was him playing in seminal “alternative white people music” acts Sibling Rivalry or City Bowl Mizers, or for being involved in events Uprising, DUT Digifest and DBNxFST, or his design work. Maybe from his time at Centre for Creative Arts, UKZN’s cultural arm responsible for the city and country’s biggest cultural festivals. Festivals like Time of The Writer literature Festival, Jomba! Contemporary Dance Festival, Poetry Africa and earlier mentioned DIFF.

 

The idea is that if there isn’t someone available, do it yourself. Afri Cine follows this, it’s an ideal that Jones has carried for most of his life. “Afri Cine is mostly based on a reaction to a situation. It was based on constant feedback from people, audiences. There was an ongoing need for an alternative to what was on offer. There had been events in the past (Cinema Thursday) that showed that you could do events with minimal set up and infrastructure and it could work. I couldn’t just sit around.”

 

With an early exposure to art from a neighbour and encouraging parents, his interests in design and art (besides his short stint at an agency), it’s easy to see that he was destined for the arts. It’s almost ironic that his early days in punk would eventually lead up to four-year stint working on the most diverse cultural programs. “It started with the music, playing in punk bands as a kid which I can say I was never ready for. Trying to get on shows, tours. Early on we started just putting on shows ourselves as kids. Touring the country and being exposed to life was the next step. From there it went on to doing festivals and things like Uprising. After spending time in Bangkok to play music and explore, I ended up at the CCA. Those programs really affected me. It wasn’t just the content material, which engaged in tough topics that at times could be tough as white South African to engage with. But equally, it exposed me to a lot of people. Think about it, you’re putting on four of the biggest cultural festivals a year, you’re meeting artists, creators and thinkers from around the country and world. All with different situations than you but with similar mindsets to you.“

 

 

“To an extent that also spoke to my nature. I’m outgoing so I’m always meeting people from different situations and constantly learning. So there was valuable commodity in not only the experience in putting those events on but also on my personal development.” This is obvious in the type of events Steve has been involved in since leaving the CCA, from digital art festivals at DUT Digifest, extreme sports festival DBN X FEST or the Bow Music Conference, all carrying his love for art that’s equal parts entertainment and engagement.  

 

However, like all things young in Durban, the audience is small yet grateful, but at what point does someone with his history get tired and just chill? “I’m okay with the idea that this might not last, that Afri Cine might act as a form of inspiration or blueprint for something else. The biggest challenge is you can’t expect too much. It never ends up like you hope. It’s the thing about events, you can work all month or year on something and anything could happen. I know I could take something like this to Joburg and it could survive, even do well. But I’m connected to this city.”

 

With Afri Cine’s next screening taking place in the early summer, Jones lives a very Durban freelance life working on video productions, doing sound design, web, illustration and the occasional soundman gig, while squeezing in a surf and balancing his many eclectic interests. Expect more from a man who has been known to not sit still, “You don’t want to be stagnant, and whatever you’re doing needs to be about improvement. If you’re not improving and whatever you’re doing is going through the motions, you’re not really doing anything. I can’t help myself, I need to always feel that I’m doing something meaningful.”

 

 

Go like Afri Cine on Facebook to find out when the next screening is.

Comments
2 Responses to “Moving Pictures: Steve Jones, Afri Cine and the Culture of Doing it Yourself”
  1. Norma Jean says:

    Dig this vibe.

    However “alternative white people music” is kinda whack. Who the fuck cares if we black or white..and um do you know how big punk is in South America/Asia. Its a global thing. A nice example of safe space liberalism gone wonky in this post. Time to read some Karl Marx huh? I wish people would not write stupid shit like that.

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