We are proud to announce that this year’s winner of The Whickers Chicken & Egg Pictures Award  goes to Milisuthando, from first-time director Milisuthando Bongela and producer Marion Isaacs. This award was established three years ago to back the work of pioneering New York-based organisation Chicken & Egg Pictures, by giving an annual grant to one woman documentary-maker from their (Egg)celerator Lab program. The Milisuthando team will receive £8,000 towards their production.

It’s 1992 and Milisuthando is enjoying her sheltered childhood in “The Republic of the Transkei”, a dodgy ethnic homeland where, even though apartheid is raging 100 km away, she has no idea of the impending racial calamity beyond her hometown. When Transkei is suddenly dissolved at the end of apartheid, 8-year-old Milisuthando becomes a member of the first generation of black kids to attend “Whites Only” schools in South Africa. Through her probing, often naive journey with a cast of contrary characters, we revisit the old interiors of the “New South Africa”, exploring how racial prejudice and interracial bonding played out in the everyday. And why today, South Africa seems to be making a U-turn towards its ugly racial past.

Milisuthando Bongela said of the news: “When I first read about The Whickers in 2015, I remember wishing my film was good enough to qualify for what looked like amazing grant and opportunity. It was vindicating four years later, to have an opportunity to send some material through to The Whickers through Chicken & Egg. But nobody could have prepared me for the moment when Valerie (Kleeman, founder and chair), Jane (Ray, Artistic Director) and Jane (Mote, Editorial Consultant) came to meet my producer and I to tell us we had been awarded a Whickers grant.  On one hand, it’s great that our film is receiving this grant so that we can continue working, but in the greater scheme, this is facilitating the urgent and important process of liberating other perspectives on the human condition, in this case, an African perspective.” 

About the director: Milisuthando Bongela is a multi award-winning writer, editor and cultural worker whose interdiscipinary work has spanned across print and broadcast media, publishing, music, fashion, art and the film industry in South Africa. For 8 years, she wrote weekly social commentary columns on race, gender the post-apartheid condition in the Mail and Guardian and City Press newspapers as well as collaborated with international publications including Dazed and Confused, Colours, W Magazine and Aperture. From 2016 – 2018, she was the Arts Editor of the Mail & Guardian, a columnist, speaker and facilitator of arts and culture. She is also the co-creator, producer and host of Umoya: On African Spirituality, a biweekly long listen podcast. Her awards include a Sanlam Journalism Award, a Sikuvile Journalism Award and her latest, the 2018 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) Most Promising Documentary Project awarded at the Durban International Film Festival, for Milisuthando. She lives in Johannesburg where she continues to tell her generation’s stories.

About the producer: Marion Isaacs is a curator and producer with a love of storytelling, which she has explored through her work in documentary film, and exhibition, museum and digital curation. She is passionate about South African stories, particularly those with a historical dimension, and this varied work has afforded her a sustained focus on the political, socio-economic and cultural dimensions of South African life. Her film repertoire includes documentary work for the //Hapo Museum at Freedom Park (SA), for the Matola Interpretive Centre (Mozambique) and for the Samora Machel Museum in Mbuzini (SA); work as producer on a feature-length documentary about Aids denialism in South Africa (directed by Oliver Hermanus, for release in 2019) and as executive producer on a documentary series which retraced the journeys of ex-freedom fighters into exile, paying tribute to the sacrifices of African countries and their citizens for South Africa’s liberation.

About Chicken & Egg Pictures’ (Egg)celerator Lab: Open to applicants from around the world, the (Egg)celerator Lab provides first and second time women and gender non-conforming filmmakers with a $35,000 grant, a year-long creative support program with participation in three one-week labs (all expenses covered), mentorship catered to each individual and their project, and opportunities for networking with industry professionals and the filmmaker community. As Jenni Wolfson, Executive Director of Chicken & Egg Pictures, said about the program, “We don’t simply support films, our programs help to foster sustainable careers in the documentary industry. This holistic approach is the key to successfully supporting filmmakers as agents of social change around important issues.”