A million words
Her dirty blonde hair was hidden under her black peak cap. Her face wrinkled and tired, evidence of the days she spent standing in the hot, South African sun. Her mouth formed a welcoming smile, showing her chipped front teeth. People call her “Annie”, she told me. I met her after I made the almost 900 kilometre journey from Grahamstown to Cape Town. An eager, third year television student from Rhodes University, I had never set foot in Muizenberg before. After getting lost because of my terrible directional skills, I finally made it for my first day interning at Substance Films. Making a short film was one of the tasks we were given. This is where Annie comes in.
I noticed her outside the Muizenberg clinic where she has worked as a car guard for the past 19 years. Her charismatic nature draws you in, and she quickly became the subject of the short film. She has been homeless for over 20 years, and carries her belongings everywhere she goes. She’s one of those people who has been through hardship, but doesn’t make you feel sorry for her. What struck me most about Annie was how optimistic she was and how she truly cares for the wellbeing of others. Countless passers-by stopped to chat with her, and her animated personality made her all the more likeable. People like Annie are so thankful for the simple things that the rest of us often take for granted – a bed to sleep in, water to wash with, or food to eat.
It was Annie who reminded me of the humanity in people we often discard. And it was Annie who reminded me why I decided to study television in the first place. It has been said that “if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million” (Troy Olson and Jeff Loquist). Video has the ability to capture something special, a slice of life, if you will. If you peel back all the analytical layers of the media studies courses that Rhodes so prides itself in teaching, then you find a human essence which becomes hard to explain. Studying television has pushed me out of my comfort zone and I’ve met the most interesting people I’ve ever come across. Video makes it possible to share that experience with others. My week at Substance Films has undoubtedly solidified my future career decision to share millions of “words” with millions of people. It seems idealistic… But I can dream, can’t I?
by Katharine Holmes
Annie, could in a nutshell be the reason I’m studying journalism, specializing in television. I love people. I love how complex, how “story-filled” they are. I pass so many people each day and I forget sometimes, despite my love for them, that they all have a story. So when I have the opportunity of getting to know someone there’s no such thing as asking too many questions. I love watching someone be who they are. It sounds weird but closely watching someone’s mannerisms, watching a raw self unfold is, I think, one of the most beautiful things. Many times during the day, I think we’re so busy doing things in a socially acceptable way, saying the rights things that our social selves seem to dominate conversation. Seem to dominate our lives. It’s thrilling watching someone introduce you to another self. Another part of their whole. The one you don’t usually get at a quick glance.
So there I was being introduced to another part of Annie. The person beyond the green/yellow bib. The person, who like she says, cares about other people when they are down. “I can’t stand to see someone else sad”, she said. “I’ve been through hell and back and I don’t want anyone else to experience it”. And when someone says they don’t have anything to give her, she responds saying “It’s not about that, it’s about keeping people safe”. This is Annie. Annie has been a car guard in Muizenberg for over 19 years. I must have seen her in Muizenberg because I have been staying here for over 12 years now, but I‘ve never really looked at her. Seen her. Seen beyond that green/yellow bib she wears. In fact, I never even saw the bib. But on Wednesday, 26 June 2013, I saw her. Now, I don’t in anyway think I know her entire life story (although she did give me quite a bit to work with), but I now know a little bit about her. I know if her eyes become green to “back off”, I know how seriously she takes her job, I know she really just wants a room to come back to. A room which still has what she left in it the morning she left for work. I know that she, in spite of her situation, thinks that because she is able to keep her “stuff” dry, that, that is a blessing.
Some people hesitate as they unfold. She didn’t. Every “throwing of the hands in the air”, every chuckle, invited you into another part of her. A part, which like the place she lived, was open to everyone. It’s like she was, like she is, a part of Muizenberg’s story. A story, just waiting to be read.
- Annie is a woman myself and Katharine Holmes (another intern) interviewed and filmed when interning at Substance Films.