“I like people,’ Says Anna Telford of her ability to capture the human aspect in film, “and I get to ask them the questions you would normally never ask.’
Her’s is the art of putting people at ease so they become themselves; essential when it comes to her promotional films, which are less endorsements, more vistas into peoples lives. Sitting down with Telford and her German collaborator at Butterfly Films, Felix Seuffert, I’ve had three double shots of coffee and she still manages to put me at ease. But we’re turning the tables, I’m the one interviewing her. Hah hah! Yet I still end up talking more about me. This girl’s good.
But I do learn a few things about Telford. She was the co-writer and producer of the Iraq war docu-drama, Battle for Haditha, directed by Nick Broomfield. It’s a gritty dramatisation of the death of 24 Iraqi civilians – men, women and children – at the hands of US marines after a roadside bomb killed one of their soldiers.
Telford spent time getting to know some of the marines responsible. These were down at heel kids who had been recruited in school; never been out of the States; followed orders and got swept up in a nightmare. The nightmare of the Iraqi families that were affected is indescribable. Telford spent time with some of them too. The result is a film that is horrific yet human to the core, somehow towing a line of objectivity while exposing the key figures in all their raw, naked candor.
The theme of Haditha is far different to Butterfly Film’s work, but the human element remains. Telford and Seuffert have been connecting viewers with aid organisations and social and environmental initiatives through film. “Simplicity is the best way to maintain authenticity,’ says Seuffert. The story they most often refer to is a short for Big Issue magazine: Reflections. It follows a young woman living in the heart of Cape Town and a mother from a squatter settlement – a Big Issue seller. Their morning routines run parallel; two worlds apart yet reflections of each other. The strangers meet momentarily at the traffic lights. As the Cape Town woman buys the magazine a connection is made, a bridge is built showing the true purpose of the Big Issue.
This is one of many films with a common element being the authentic human story, another is that most are produced for the web.
Their most recent project was an online film for Siemens expounding on their energy efficient lighting for the Moses Madiba Stadium and promenade in Durban. Telford and Seuffert told the story of a 50 year old man who caught sight of his youth by getting involved in skateboarding in what was once a no-go area, now transformed into a safe, vibrant public space after dark.
Telford and Seuffert love the liberty and authenticity social media affords them and bring the same philosophy to their broadcast productions.
I am fortunate enough to view a work in progress that Seuffert filmed recently in Port Nolloth. This short documentary focuses on the peculiar influence of the diamond trade on the diverse people of this community – a microcosm of South Africa. It is an objective view, a reflection of our unique society, a mirror sometimes best held up to us by foreign filmmakers such as Telford and Seuffert.
By Anton Crone
Screen Africa Magazine – February 2012