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Outsider – the beginning of something bigger
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Wed, 06 Aug 2014 16:30
CONTROVERSY IN ART: Beezy Bailey at work

Outsider is the third in a series of documentaries by Deepend Films showcasing the lives and work of South African visual artists. The first two films, Chickens can Fly and Light and Dark, won SAFTAs this year.

This 45-minute documentary premiered in May; it featured at the Encounters Film Festival and there are already talks of a feature film in the pipeline. It tells the story of one of South Africa’s most colourful and controversial artists, Beezy Bailey, and his 30-year career.

Bailey received a death threat in 1999 after he dressed the statue of Boer General Louis Botha, outside parliament in Cape Town, in traditional Xhosa clothing for a public sculpture festival commemorating Heritage Day. He also offended Christians with his controversial Dancing Jesus piece, which had Christ dancing in high heels.

Bailey found himself at the centre of yet another scandal when he set out to prove that the colour of an artist’s skin played an imperative part in the art world. He submitted two artworks for a triennial exhibition; one featuring his own signature, and the other signed Joyce Ntobe, a female alter-ego of Bailey. The first was rejected while the other was accepted and now hangs in the Iziko South African National Gallery.

In Outsider, Bailey shares his thought process and reasoning on these pieces but whether they are plausible is for the audience to decide.

Paulene Abrey, co-producer and co-director of Outsider, explains that one of Bailey’s beneficiaries is the driving force behind the idea of a feature film on Bailey’s life. Abrey says: “The beneficiary wants to make the movie about his (Bailey’s) whole life relating to his art; because he is descended from a Randlord there are a lot of misperceptions of his lifestyle, Drum magazine is a whole story on its own and even his mom has a story of her own.”

Abrey explains that this documentary serves as a feeler to determine whether the feature film will be profitable.

Celebrating SA artists

The series will comprise 12 documentaries. Abrey explains that the first three documentaries have a similar style, however the documentaries thereafter will be handled differently and will focus on the artist alone. Deborah Bell is set to be the subject of the next film.

Chickens Can Fly tells the story of Pieter van der Westhuizen and his career in the pre-apartheid era. Van der Westhuizen passed away during filming, which only makes his message in the film more impactful: “If you wait for inspiration before you get up in the morning you would possibly spend a lot more time in bed.”

Light and Dark focuses on Norman Catherine’s protest art and political reference during apartheid while Outsider shows Bailey’s struggles as an artist in the post-apartheid era. “The films show where we were and how far we have come,” Abrey explains.
The documentaries so far have been well received. Chickens Can Fly won the 2014 Best Documentary Director SAFTA (Paulene Abrey) and Light and Dark won Best Cinematography of a Documentary Feature SAFTA (Paul Kruger). However both films were nominated for more SAFTAs, the former three and the latter four.

Abrey explains that these artists were chosen as they are vastly different to each other. The series serves not only to celebrate South African artists but to understand where the creative source comes from – giving insight into what happens between an artist and his canvas. “One true expression of art that cannot be touched or altered visually is a painting. It comes straight from a source – from up there or down there whatever you want to call it. It is a clean line of artistic expression,” she says, adding: “People are scared of the creative process.

“It is not what we (Deepend Films) are trying to tell the audience but what the artists are telling the audience and how they see things through their eyes,” Abrey explains.

Inside Outsider

Outsider was shot on Red One cameras on three locations: Cape Town, where Bailey is based, Johannesburg and London – where a scene, showing Bailey’s collaboration with British musician and record producer Brian Eno, was shot. Abrey wanted to shoot in the US as well, but budget did not allow for this.

Sean Drummond, writer and co-director, started off the two-year process in Cape Town, while Abrey did most of the Joburg leg. Abrey and the third co- director, Luaan Hong, collaborated closely in overseeing the edit. Abrey says all three directors were working towards common goals, which helped to make the process easier.

Shaun Harley Lee was the cinematographer on Outsider and Abrey believes the film “is beautifully shot.” A scene in which Bailey paints in his studio, with the David Bowie song ‘Sunday’ playing in the background, is something to talk about. Due to Bailey’s relationships with Bowie, as well as Dave Matthews, no rights had to be purchased to use their music.

Archive footage of Bailey and Bowie collaborating, as well as Drum archive footage from Bailey’s younger years, are intercut into the documentary. Abrey explains that Ed Harris’ biopic on controversial American artist Jackson Pollock was the inspiration for this.

Abrey says that Sky Arts channel has expressed interest in the documentaries and she sincerely hopes that DStv will one day launch an arts channel, which would make an ideal platform for the Outsider and the other films in the series.



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