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A Conversation with Shelley Barry

For the past few months I have been a student of an amazing film maker. The completed film will be available soon, and will, of course be shared with my readers. This is an article I wrote for a newsletter. Since then, Shelley has screened her documentary, Mr Shakes, at the Encounters Film festival.

She will also be the subject of an episode of the I Am Woman series on SABC 3 this coming Sunday, 28 July at 09:30am. For more info, and for international friends, check it out here.


Sitting in her office at the Gender Equity Unit, eating dhal on a cold day, Shelley Barry shared some insights to herself and her work.

As the Filmmaker in Residence at UWC, Barry has chosen the Gender Equity Unit’s LGBTQI programme, LoudEnuf, for the first semester of 2013, to teach a film course and to film a documentary.  As the complete antithesis to mainstream society’s ideal, Barry embodies many minorities, namely female, lesbian, person of colour and a person with a disability. Shelley sees herself as an artist who engages with the world creatively. However, as a writer and poet, film is her core passion.

As a supposed minority, however, she sees her position as a place of power, and not a weakness. She believes that it is important to get work out there, “or you get silenced”.  She was not always as empowered as she is now, as she says that she first felt sorry for herself when she was shot as a bystander in the taxi wars in 1996. As a 23 year old able-bodied person, she had not thought about her status before. Seeing the world through a different lens, life in a wheelchair was “like entering a parallel universe, the world is the same, but different”.

Barry describes a good film as real and honest and that one should be able to “sense the truth” in it, she believes that one should speak out in whatever form. She calls her work “arts activism” and believes that it is important to take responsibility for one’s life, because “people get educated just by being around you”.

Her short time as a filmmaker and teacher at UWC has been “amazing so far”, but she believes that it will take a couple of years for a functional film unit to be established. The vision, however, has started.

Her upcoming plans include a Ph.D. and films in development include her new documentary, “Mr Shakes” soon to be screened at the Encounters film festival, and a new project about South African poet, James Matthews. Finally, when asked about how she chooses her projects, Shelley concluded in typical artistic, yet inspirational style: “The film will come to me”.


 <p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

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