Facing the Challenges to Build a More Harmonious South Africa

“It’s been more than 20 years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and when we look back, it was good and it did serve a purpose, but it also gave some people the chance to wash their hands and conveniently move on without truly listening and understanding. I feel like we dropped the ball and there wasn’t enough restorative justice and giving back. It would have been difficult to do back then, but now it seems even more difficult.” Shane believes that people are becoming increasingly polarised. “Communities and race groups are pulling further away from each other. Everybody is reading their own news feeds influenced by people who think the same as they do. And this is a big problem.”

Engaging in the Process of Change

“There’s definitely hope, but then we have to get out of our comfort zones and be more intentional about reaching out to one another. As white people, we must be willing to show up, sit down and listen without trying to come up with all the answer. We should acknowledge the privileges we have from being white and how we can possibly make some changes to rectify this.”

Shane believes it starts with having cross-cultural friendships. “White people should have black friends. Not just colleagues or people who work for you. It should be someone you would choose to hang out with on a Friday night. You need to be able to discuss big issues like ‘fees must fall’ around the dinner table with them and even if you don’t agree, you’ll still be friends.” He explains how dangerous it is to define someone by an issue. “We should be able to talk about ‘Rhodes must fall’ and at the end of the day that issue shouldn’t define my friend, and that issue shouldn’t define me. If you don’t have friends across the colour lines, then you allow issues to define certain groups of people and there’s also very little empathy.”

Essentially Shane believes in dialogue and being open, available and willing to have those hard conversations. That’s also why he doesn’t shy away from topics like human trafficking, organ trafficking, medical malpractice and the loss of a child in his films. He might be young, but he has a mature way of looking at the world that is far beyond his years. He is, however, the first to admit the importance of staying humble and grounded and not trying to tell anyone else’s story if you have no idea what it entails.

Taking the Lead on The Way Forward

Tackling any issues for Shane will be through media and more specifically film-making. That’s his absolute passion. “The magic of movies is that you can hold people’s attention for two hours and there are not many things that can do that these days. People’s attention spans are shrinking, so it’s amazing that they’ll sit in a dark room for that long and just concentrate,” he muses.

“Within this form of entertainment, you’ve got a unique opportunity to bring your worldview across. I’m not talking about propaganda or indoctrination, but perhaps giving the audience new insight, creating empathy and understanding and painting a picture of the other side of the story. The medium of film has the power not only to entertain but to change lives for good.” This is what excites him and why he wants to spend the rest of his life making films.

“It is a medium that is not restricted to religion, gender, age or nationality and has a global impact.” Through the film industry he’s getting exposure and an ideal platform to speak out about injustices and to boldly say things that might otherwise not get heard.

More about Shane Vermooten

Shane Vermooten is a film director and entrepreneur. Apart from his award-winning short films such as Tula-Tula, Unspoken, Freedom Road and Another Side of Life, Shane’s first full-length feature film, Bypass, was recently released. It’s a medical thriller, which reveals the complexity of the organ trade. Shane is a Durban Talent alumni and 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow. His startup, Cinemo, provides pan-African content.