Review of The Rise

Shahied Joseph

There were technical problems before the scheduled showing of The Rise, people arrived late, and chairs were shuffled noisily despite the movie being delayed by 30 minutes, a prologue if you will, reflecting the state of affairs that is present in Bo-Kaap.

I expected this documentary by Weaam Williams and Nafia Kocks to be about the 2018 protests against the construction of an apartment complex on Lion Street (40 on L), and it was, but the persons featured also talked about joblessness, patriarchy and overcrowding, or rather the absence of social housing.

Important topics, but no convincing narrative because these are merely the voices of four people from a township of nearly 3000 people; there are no statistics to back up the idea that social housing is needed, and there is no evidence that the 40 on L apartment building was constructed illegally.

But first, let me talk about the protest that made national headlines at the time. Despite citizen efforts to halt construction, the structure was completed. Residents lost this battle because the developer and the City of Cape Town had every right to do so.

Second, there has been no inquiry (from the film-makers) into why the development proceeded or why the inhabitants did not want it, only a voice saying they are unhappy with this building because people from the Bo-Kaap cannot afford to live there, and that it could have been used for social housing.

My final point is about the applause for the protesters. What is the point of cheering this documentary if the efforts of the locals, particularly the elderly men and women who participated in it, were futile? Yes they love their neighbourhood but this passion and this documentary is not enough to stop urbanisation.

This documentary will most likely elicit strong emotions in individuals who live in this neighbourhood, but it offers little understanding into why urbanisation is unpopular, why there is patriarchy, and why people live in overcrowded apartments.

It fails to push the City of Cape Town or the developers to speak out about the developments, and it surely does not motivate locals to do more in terms of combating the social evils they encounter, or perhaps it does, but it is not persuasive to me.

For two years, this reporter has observed how plans to enhance the Bo-Kaap arise when City authorities and residents’ organisations gather together, yet discussion is all that is heard, and the documentary is confirmation of the lingering affairs plaguing the area.