In March we had the privilege of screening the documentary, I Am A Poet, an excellent project looking at the spoken word scene in South Africa. Directed and produced by Ikaye Masisi, it looks at the story of poetry from some of the country’s most influential minds. We sat down with Ikaye to find out a little bit more about this momentous initiative.
What was the inspiration behind this doccie? Why look at poets and poetry? Why now?
The inspiration behind the doccie was to begin a journey of documenting the soul, energy and spirit of poetry in these contemporary times. I was curious, and still am, about the beautiful madness inherent in audiences being moved by the magic of words. I guess my curiosity lies in trying to understand the power of that phenomenon. I hope I don’t solve the mystery and keep doing this for a minute.
Your cast includes the names of some of the people who can be said to be game changers in the poetry scene. Why them?
The choice I made with regard to the participants was based on how their work affected me. They each had something to add in trying to sculpt this mask. But most importantly, it was what they had to say through their poetry that got them a place on the timeline.
What is the one thing you want people to walk away with after watching your documentary?
The most important element in this narrative is a question aimed at the poets specifically, and the question is very simple: what are we writing for as African writers. It’s really the beginning of trying to understand this thing called poetry and its purpose in the music of life.
What are some of the challenges you faced while producing the documentary? What were some of your highlights?
One of the challenges I faced was having to stop shooting because I didn’t have taxi money to run around and do shows or interviews. Having to get some of these guys on camera, was also a problem. Then, having to put together the story in edit was very tricky. I had to find a simple way of telling the story that was before me. I think it worked because a lot of people get it, so that’s quite dope.