Film Interview: Loren Loubser – Removed, Or Doing Right By Redhill

July 5, 2021

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Director Loren Loubser‘s short film Removed, which is on the programme for the Durban International Film Festival, centres around the topic of land reparations and forced removals, a conversation that is always tense and raw, no matter your race or where you sit in class systems in South Africa.


Was there a single moment when you first realised you wanted to make films or TV programmes – a specific movie or show in a particular context? What was it that caught your attention?

I knew I wanted to create films, but I thought I would strictly be as cast and a focus on acting. I studied acting and it was always my main focus. One year I started to look into the personal archives of my family, as you do when you reach an age, particularly as black and brown South Africans, and realise you do not know enough of where you come from, your DNA, your family’s traumas and histories. It was then that I knew I wanted to make a documentary of unfolding who I am or a part of me. Working on Poppie Nongena as an assistant director and shooting in Redhill refuelled a project I had submitted1 to the NFVF [National Film & Video Foundation] and I began without any go-ahead – I was too afraid to wait!


Do you prefer doing as few takes as possible or as many as are necessary? Both choices have their pros and cons…

As a documentarian, it’s really about the moment, the truth, and by letting a camera just roll, the subject and story tells itself. You can’t really force that, or it won’t be true. As an actor, I love as few takes as necessary, once we have all given what was needed, we really don’t need many “for safety”.


Getting (in conjunction with your team) the exact look or feel you want onscreen: what are the most helpful outside factors for you in this process (from location to make-up or costumes to framing or editing)?

Editing, music, grading, sound, working from references, how you shoot for your style or taste, interviews, cutaways – that all played into getting the look and feel I imagined. But it couldn’t be a copy and paste of what I saw and envisioned. It had its own flavour, and every single team member brought the spice that was needed. 


While everyone is looking to you for guidance, how aware are you of needing to limit what you say or do in order to let the combination of everything in the frame (the location, the lighting, the costumes, your cast) be as effective as possible?

I didn’t have to say much. When shooting, our team was tiny: it wasn’t about us – we were just watching and listening. I asked the questions and let the people speak for themselves. I actually asked too little out of fear, but the material came.


The pandemic has created enormous challenges at every level in the film and television industries, but there is still fantastic work being created. What, or who, are the brightest lights in terms of work you have done recently or films or shows you are watching at the moment?

I was a filmmaker and creator having to find other ways to survive during level 5 particularly, but thanks to the NFVF, I was able to push my work forward and not just sit on it, while being able to give something to those that gave their service and time. So often we work on short films just to help each other out, to tell stories or to get recognition or exposure, but our people need money and I don’t like to ask for things. Strangelove Studios are the heroes of this short film. They offered service and time and support just based on believing in the importance of the story, and that really touched my heart. It’s the core of making this film come to a completion. Nagvlug productions is also a really important part of my own work. Last year, I worked on No Hiding Here by Gabe Gabriel, South Africa’s first queer romcom. I got to act and be given a chance in a time where work was really scarce. And again this year, I have just wrapped on another film with them. The importance of brown stories with brown directors and brown crew and brown actors is so huge, and during these times it’s leading the South African film and television industry. Shows I am loving? Pose, Legendary and Skemerdans.


As a director – not just as a fan – what makes you excited about the above?

That the future of film and television is queer and black and it’s about time! Also, we are telling our own stories, because when cisgendered, straight and/or white people try sprinkle our existence into films, it is empty and misrepresented. We need to be in power positions over our own narratives and representation. So make us writers, directors, cultural advisors, producers, actors, script supervisors, and heads of department.


Please unpack your current project? How did you get involved and what is most satisfying about it?

Removed is a documentary all about forced removals in an area most people do not know of in Cape Town (unless you go hike and swim in the dam without the knowledge of the history of the area). The film focuses on the forced removals of Redhill, told through three generations of women from one family, sharing their experiences, thoughts and the trauma of what the forced removals caused. This family is my family. This is our story and this is the story of many people of colour in South Africa, raw and unspoken. The most satisfying part is that as a country, we often want to push the past away and try move forward, but so much has gone unaddressed. Two generations were forcibly removed here and have yet to see any reparations of the land. The land is empty, it is unoccupied, and yet nothing is being done. But this story stands strong and will show audiences the bits that people don’t want to talk about. This film makes me so proud and I want it to push the land claims forward and hold people accountable. That film as a medium can create awareness, change, help get lawyers involved, address policy, hold people accountable – that, to me, is the most exciting thing about the film industry and about this film.

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