Cannes: Jahmil X.T. Qubeka Brings Epic 'Sew the Winter to My Skin' to the Atelier

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May 17th 2017

[caption id="attachment_294081" align="aligncenter" width="1000"]Jahmil X.T. Qubeka (Photo: Timmy Henny) Jahmil X.T. Qubeka (Photo: Timmy Henny)[/caption]

The 2017 Cannes Cinefondation’s Atelier hosts its thirteenth edition this year, with 16 directors selected to participate, whose projects have been considered particularly promising. Together with their producers, they will meet potential partners, a necessary step to begin production on their films. L’Atelier provides its participants access to international co-productions, thus helping to accelerate each film’s completion.

The Cinefondation’s Atelier was created in 2005 to stimulate creative filmmaking and encourage the emergence of a new generation of filmmakers. So far, out of 186 projects selected since the initiative launched, 145 have been completed and 14 are currently in pre-production.

For L’Atelier’s 13th edition, 15 projects from 14 countries have been selected, featuring work from new directors as well as veteran filmmakers. Of note, given this blog's specific interests, is a project from South African filmmaker Jahmil X.T. Qubeka - whose feature debut, "Of Good Report," was strongly supported on this blog, but still sadly remains underseen (it didn't receive much prominent distribution outside of South Africa). Qubeka's Cannes L'Atelier entry is titled "Sew the Winter to my Skin."

Its synopsis reads: Inspired by the life and times of John Kepe, the Samson of the Boschberg, "Sew the Winter to My Skin" is a poetic chronicling of the escapades, arrest and trial of the Robin Hood-esque man of the mountain who managed to steal from farmers and elude capture for years during the 1950’s in South Africa. Beginning with Kepe’s final mission before capture, "Sew the Winter to My Skin" pieces the legend together from multiple perspectives, including that of the white farmers, the town militia, a torn journalist covering Kepe’s trial, farm laborers and the locals. In his ultimate sacrifice Kepe takes on responsibility for a murder he did not commit in an attempt to ensure a future for the guilty young boy who murdered a farm laborer in order to protect Kepe. "Sew the Winter to My Skin" explores the futility of the white settlers’ preoccupation with the preservation and protection of their ideals and physical possessions. It is a film about the search for a hero amongst victimized black people.

Qubeka calls the film a passion project: "Spending my teen years in the small town of Somerset East exposed me to the legend of John Kepe, a man who spent his days in a cave on the mountain, who spent his life preparing for something that no one else knew about. As with most stories I hear, I immediately began devising ways in which to tell it. The epic nature of his capture, the spiritual poetry of his calling, the backdrop of the sleepy town, the impending horror of Apartheid and the power of the man and his fervent belief in something greater than himself. This is an authentic South African story that creates a hero, a people’s champion in a time where local heroes were not rewarded or immortalized."

This is most certainly a production we'll be watching closely going forward. "Of Good Report" was a solid debut for the filmmaker and cinéaste - one that really should have gotten him far more attention than it did. He was on the S&A Filmmakers to Watch list in 2013, so it's good to see him continue to progress. Let's hope he comes out of the L'Atelier' successful, able and ready to go into production.

From May 19 to 25, L’Atelier will arrange meetings with the directors with film industry professionals interested in investing in their projects.

The full list of 2017 L'Atelier projects selected follows below.

-- "Sew the Winter to my Skin," Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, South Africa

-- "Day After Tomorrow," Kamar Ahmad Simon, Bangladesh

-- "Ningdu," Lei Lei, China

-- "Teenage Jesus," Marie Grahtø Sørensen, Denmark

-- "Decompression," Yona Rozenkier, Israel

-- "Go Youth," Carlos Armella, Mexico

-- "Bedridden," Byamba Sakhya, Mongolia

-- "Alam," Firas Khoury, Palestine

-- "Candy Town," Yanillys Perez, Dominican Republic

-- "Otto the Barbarian," Ruxandra Ghitescu, Romania

-- "Summer E5," Emily Young, The United Kingdom

-- "City of Small Blessings," Chen-Hsi Wong, Singapore

-- "The Translator," Rana Kazkaz & Anas Khalaf, Syria

-- "Cu Li Nevers Cries," Pham Ngoc Lan, Vietnam

-- "Taste," Le Bao, Vietnam

by Tambay Obenson on May 17th 2017
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