On the Road with Felix Seuffert

Blog relocated

Posted in Nicht kategorisiert by felix on January 23, 2011

Dear readers, for convenience’s sake, I now integrated this blog into my new website http://www.felixseuffert.com. To read blog entries from now on, please visit my new website.

Don’t return

Posted in On Show by felix on July 13, 2010

“I currently have one child.” These are the words of Helen, a Zimbabwean woman in her mid-50s, sitting next to her crutches on the floor in a busy room in the basement of the Central Methodist Church in downtown Johannesburg. She already had the chance to cook, while other women still wait with their babies for their turn to use one of the 2-plate electric stoves in a corner of the room. It used to be a storage room, when the church was still used in its original way. Now it serves as a dorm, a creche and a kitchen for at least 40 of the 1,500 refugees presently living in the building. As the ventilation ceased to work at some point during the 6 years in which the refugees have been inhabiting the church, the air is hot, thick and sticky and smells of a mixture of old clothes, sweat and the food that is being prepared in several pots simultaniously.

Helen invited me to share her modest dinner of sadsa (maize porridge) and beef since I remind her of her first born son and because, as she puts it, if I met her in Germany, I would say “come here maGogo, have a meal with me”. The fact that she has one child at present doesn’t mean that she is planning to become pregnant again, but merely that there was a time when she had four children and that she survived three of them. The remaining one is still in Zimbabwe, finishing his schooling, whereas the others either fell victim to state suppression, died from sickness or lost their lives on the journey to South Africa. As things got worse back home, Helen also decided to hit the road for the dangerous and incredibly straining journey to South Africa in the search of a life that is in any way better than the existence in a place that under “the old man” Robert Mugabe’s rule provides neither food nor jobs which could pay you enough money to buy food.

Stories like hers are as many in the church as there are people. All of them tell of deep trauma and personal tragedy. However, as a matter of fact, for most South Africa turned out not to be the save haven they hoped for. The lack of papers won’t allow them to work toward a better situation and also makes them subject to arbitrary repressions by the police as soon as they leave the shelter of the church. As long as things do not change substantially in Zim, going home is no option. Hence Helen and her compatriots are caught in a constant state of limbo which doesn’t leave any other option than to persevere with the status quo and to wait for better times.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung dedicated a whole page in last thursday’s issue to an insight into the conditions under which these people live. I really appreciate the photographic emphasis of the article. After going back to the church for another time and spending a night there the series became a bit more dense. You will find it soon on felixseuffert.com.


Posted in On Show by felix on July 9, 2010

The Big Issue South Africa just published “Reflections”, the film Anna Telford of Butterfly Films and I produced in May and June. It features the story of two women who both live and work in Cape Town, although in very difficult circumstances. Making this film definitely gave me a better understanding for this country. Maybe watching it does the same thing for you: http://vimeo.com/12668755

Apparently Anna and I are not the only ones who like this piece of work: After seeing the film, Cape Town based film maker Simon Wood of Saltpeter Productions, asked me to shoot a documentary with him in Johannesburg this weekend. Well, how could I possibly say “no”?

Soccer for Life No. 5: Island of Struggle

Posted in On Show by felix on June 12, 2010

Now that the World Cup is finally here and there are only few people left without serious hearing damages from the ever-present vuvuzelas, I am honoured to announce the new Soccer for Life episode “Island of Struggle”. Now online on the website of the German Football Association, DFB: http://tv.dfb.de/index.php?view=2175

Running on empty

Posted in On Show, Upcoming, Work in Progress by felix on June 9, 2010

Well guys, the past three weeks were quite a ride.

This is the result:

  • The 5th episode of the Soccer for Life series about Marcus Solomon, a former Robben Island prisoner. Archive researches, boat trips, helicopter rides. Also includes secretly sneaking away from the guided tour on the Island to find this mysterious football pitch on which the Makana Football Associaton was founded by the political prisoners in the 1960’s. Another challenge: sending tons of HD video footage to Germany through the web.On show on the DFB-website some time this week.
  • A film called “Reflections” that I shot in April with Anna Telford of Butterfly Films for the Big Issue. Editing hours on end to bring 8 hours of footage down to 5 minutes. Moreover hard negotiations about music and it’s usage plus killing some of the most beautiful scenes because they didn’t fit in. Anyway: Well done, Anna!
    On show soon on the Big Issue website
  • A story about a Zimbabwean refugee camp in downtown Johannesburg. More than 1,500 people living in a church right next door to the high court. Most of the passers-by don’t appear to care about the sitaution: for instance 11 families living in one room, heavily pregnant women who have to spend the day on the street, toddlers who hardly ever see daylight… for five years already. This is especially impressive when just coming from a press conference with head of FIFA, Jerome Valcke, who again wants to “Celebrate Africa’s Unity”. Or something like that.
    To be published as a photo page some time this week in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
  • Several portraits, including one of Andreas Henkel, head of adidas marketing in South Africa and Roger Smith, a South African writer. Not to forget Modman Mtolo the Football witchcraft expert who, according to his own words, could bring back Michael Ballack to the German national team if only he were willing to eat a snake skin or so. Also a story about Ramaphosaville, a township near Jo’burg, where two years ago two foreigners were burnt alive as an expression of frustration with poor service delivery from the government. Nothing has changed since then.
    Some already printed, the rest to come this week

Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Yebo, so am I. Especially as I am writing this at the airport while waiting for a plane to Johannesburg, where I will continue working on the refugee story.

One thing is for sure: I am looking forward to being back in Cape Town on Sunday (Yes, before 20.30). Kicking back, watching a few games, possibly catching some waves eventually. Sounds like heaven…

After the war

Posted in Work in Progress by felix on May 21, 2010

Obviously I was a little bit faster than than DFB, but now it is online at last: http://tv.dfb.de/index.php?view=2051 The 4th episode of soccer for life. Carole is going to tell the story himself, I couldn’t any better.

Dirt and smoke

Posted in Sideshow by felix on May 17, 2010

This is what my camera looked like when it came from Kenya. After a full service it is just as new. I got my new visa this morning without any further delays. The car is running again and the winter swells are cold and hard, but they can’t really harm my new wetsuit.
Everything fine again. All the more so because will find the latest episode of the Soccer for Life series later today on tv.dfb.de. Watch out for “After the war”, the story about Carole the Congolese goalkeeper, that I mentioned earlier in this blog. So far it is my favorite episode.
I myself won’t be able to watch it, as I am heading to Johannesburg for a 4-days assignment with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

A word for lighting the fireplace: So as not to catch cold while working at home yesterday, I again ignited a nice fire (The house I am living in, doesn’t have heating). In order to keep it up for a while I put on quite a few logs. Everything went fine, while I was working and listening to music with headphones until I saw those strange lights flashing in the window after an hour or so. First I ignored it, but at some stage I got suspicious and went to look. I was greeted by a complete fire brigade and a whole bunch of neighbours. This was when I learned that the chimney had been sealed by the owner of the house a long time ago which means that the fire’s smoke goes now to the neighbouring apartment instead of into the air. Without knowing I so smoked out my neighbours.

Welcome back…

Posted in Sideshow by felix on May 11, 2010

Travelling a lot lately got a bit straining. So somehow I was looking forward to coming back to cosy Cape Town with low fat nutrition, some exercise and at least a bit of what you could call “daily routine”.
I don’t want to sound defeatist, but the not so daily routine began with entering the country.

I was given a visa, but it’s valid only 7 days (a 3 weeks trip to a place some 5000 km away is what the immigration officer calls “border hopping”, -> not approved by home affairs. Actually nothing changes, beside me having to spend hours on end in the home affairs office to get the visa extended.)
The cats are still alive, but they have grown fat.
The car has a new gearbox, but the keys got lost.
Surf is up, but there’s no car to get to the beach.

On top of that: it’s winter in Cape Town now and the weather wants me to notice it.
So what else could I do but light the fireplace and watch another season of Curb Your Enthusiasm until better times come around…

PS: Did I mention the coffee grinder that mysteriously disappeared from the kitchen?

Kenyan Road Trip

Posted in Work in Progress by felix on May 6, 2010

Apologies for being silent for so long. But keeping in touch with the world is quite a task in areas where you have to climb the highest tree in the neighborhood if you even want to make a phone call. In the past few days, Cape Town film maker Anna Telford and I (as her camera man) followed the Sailing Doctors, a medical outreach organisation from Lamu, Kenya on their trip to the remote villages close to the Somali border. In detail this means 3 days sailing on a traditional dhow between the islands of the Lamu Archipelago and 2 additional days in a 4×4 on the muddy dirt tracks of the mainland.

Covered in a thick layer of sunscreen, insect repellent and sweat that can only be penetrated by the notorious tsetse-flies, protected by two armed guards against bandits (alledgedly Somalis crossing the border to steal livestock from Kenyan villages) and wild animals (according to the locals there are baboons who tie up humans and do evil things to them) and constantly struggling with the effects of the rain season, we made it back to Lamu in one piece. However this is nothing compared to the efforts of  Mohammed, Nizar and Riziki, the medical staff who have to care for 5o patients in 3 hours two times a day, or of Chloé, the founder of the project who is having to cope with the omnipotent Kenyan corruption.

Some of the communities are lucky to have small dispensaries and modest medical facilities built by the government back in the eighties. Due to their faraway situation however they are pretty unattractive as place of employment hence literally all of them are abandoned. Moreover, the inefficient health care system fails to provide these places with drugs. So if it wasn’t for the monthly visit by the Sailing Doctors the people living here would have to rely on pure fortune to catch a very rare lift to the district hospital whenever they fall sick.
Those villages who don’t have a special facility to their disposal have to see the doctor open air in the middle of the settlement. 

Somehow these intense days with a rather limited access to hygiene facilities and direct contact with open sewers and also ever-present donkey mess in the alleyways didn’t really harm me. Choosing the wrong starter from a hotel menu and an accidental sip of it’s pool water however properly knocked me out.

Anyway, we have already started editing the film and we’ll do the final interviews in the next two days, so that we can head back to Cape Town on Monday. You will hear more often from me then. Promise.

Taxi to Cape Town online

Posted in On Show by felix on April 30, 2010

A new episode of Soccer for Life was just published on dfb.de

look at this: