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The Wooden Camera

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Kayelitsha, a township close to Capetown, after the end of Apartheid. Two thirteen-year-old kids- Madiba and Sipho - play along the railway line. A train passes by. A dead man is tossed from the train and rolls to their feet. His lifeless hand clutches an attache case. Inside, the boys find a gun and a video camera. Sipho takes the gun and Madiba the camera. Their destinies are sealed.
Madiba makes a wooden box and hides the camera inside, in order to avoid questions and losing his new toy. He starts filming the township and its inhabitants. Through the lens,  his everday surroundings take on a strange new beauty.
His status enhanced by gun ownership, Sipho becomes a gang leader and operates out of Capetown. Madiba comes along, but instead of crime, he is more interested in capturing the luxurious life of the city that is in such stark contrast to his township life.
In a bookstore, Madiba films a young white girl stealing a book. They look at each other. Going out of the store, she gives him the book with her name written inside it: Estelle.
Estelle's father is a famous doctor. She lives in a traditional Capetownian white community in which century-old prejudices have not died with the end of apartheid. Estelle is eager to embrace the new South Africa, but her family doesn't allow her to do so.
She rebels and is encouraged by the non-racist views of Mr. Shawn, her music teacher who has taught music in the townships since before independence. Estelle often thinks of Madiba, the boy with his strange camera.
Sipho is now addicted to glue. He continues to traffic and becomes the undisputed chief of his small gang.
Madiba films incessantly. He also dreams of the young white girl who has held out her hand to him. They meet again some days later, and slowly a strong friendship starts between them.
From the first steps of a young cinematographer who changes the perception of his township to the tragic end of Sipho, the good-hearted bad boy, The Wooden Camera tells the story of a friendship between two kids, not understood by their parents, who refuse what seems to them like a compromise with the enemy. It will take all the determination of the kids and the intelligence of Mr. Shawn, who knows that music has no colour, to give a chance to the impossible.
Sipho commits a hold-up and is shot dead, while Madiba and Estelle try to find their way into the future through art and love.


Type of film
Running Time
90 mins
Ntshavheni Wa Luruli
Ben Woolford
Executive Producer
Ben Woolford
Kako Kelber
Yves Buclet, Peter Speyer
Director of Photography
Gordon Spooner
Principal Cast
Andre Jacobs, Bo Peterson

Production status


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Last updated 7th September 2006

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