Hardly anyone had heard of South African film Parole Camp until recently.


When director Maanda Ntsandeni handed a screener of his 70-minute documentary to the TCFF team in May, he wasn’t holding out much hope. Making matters worse, Anita, the festival director, teased him about turning up so early in the morning. It was 7am and barely light outside. He worried he may have seemed a little too keen. He braced himself for that dreaded letter that says,


“Thank you for submitting your film. Unfortunately…”


Everyone who has ever submitted a film to a festival has received one (or hundreds). Then a couple of weeks later, instead of a letter, Maanda got a call from Anita.


Anita: It’s out of sync. And the mix is terrible.


Maanda: Really? It’s a problem with the DVD. Sorry about that. Oh shit.


Anita: But Nhlanhla and I love the film. It’s really special. How did you get access to the characters?


Maanda: It’s what I do.


Anita: We want the film. Can we have it please? Can we do a remix and show it in the festival?


Maanda: Of course!


…and the rest is history.


This is a film that is speaking to young people living in poor areas, where youth crime is high. The film doesn’t judge, it just gives a way out that people probably don’t know about. We know that there are no jobs and the pull on young people to join gangs is massive. Many of the young audiences who have seen the film see themselves in these characters.” (Anita Khanna)


Now Parole Camp is in demand. South African national organization, NICRO, is partnering the film and, of the 11 films in the 2015 catalogue, Parole Camp is the most requested film. Plus, TCFF shares info on hot films with a network of international human rights festivals and Parole Camp is expected to travel – as in, Maanda make sure your passport is up to date!

After a screening in Johannesburg’s Westbury Youth Centre to a packed audience of over 70 youth, one young woman made a beeline for Maanda to tell him,

“ Thank you for making this film. It has changed my life.” (Nhlanhla has the exact quotation)


If you would like to know more about the film or to organize a screening of Parole Camp in your organization or community, contact: anita@uhuruproductions.co.za


Maanda Ntsandeni spent weeks close to the characters in the film, capturing their journey through a rehabilitation programme aimed at breaking the cycle of crime of drugs that is certain to see them return to prison or die a young death. When he does a Q&A he doesn’t talk about what camera he used or how he financed the film – although he’d be happy to answer those questions if asked. Maanda talks about the characters, about their lives, about being young and having to navigate a complex and dangerous world with few if any functioning adult role models and a state that just doesn’t seem to care if you live or die.