Groundglass announced that the National Film and Video Foundation SA awarded them funding, following the release of the short film Numbers, to develop a full feature on the life of notorious 28s gang member, Turner Adams.
In August 2016 Groundglass released Numbers, a short which gives a previously unseen insight into the unique and violent gang culture of South Africa’s prisons. The film was co-directed by South African tattoo artist, Manuela Gray and is shot entirely in black and white, with commentary from Turner Adams. In a rare appearance, Adams open up to the camera to explain the vital significances and codes intrinsic to the hand-etched tattoos which adorn the prisoners’ skin. Commissioned by Sailor Jerry’s for a two month residency at London’s Sanctum Soho Hotel, the secrets of the gangs known as the 26s, 27s and 28s are revealed through the hand-etched language of the inmates intricate tattoos.
Founder and executive producer at Groundglass, Janette De Villiers comments: “We’re so thrilled to be able to develop this project in to a full feature. Numbers has been getting so much interest that we are currently also talking to NGO’s here about building a community centre in Lavender Hill and making the entire project part of a rehabilitation programme in the Cape Flats.’
For De Villiers and Gray, the collaboration with Adams had come about as a surprise. After interviewing him for Numbers, they unlocked an intriguing story of cultural and social struggle, endurance, violence and reformation.
“At first Turner was not interested in talking to us at all,’ explains Janette “Eventually we went to his house in Lavender Hill in desperation and we were petrified to say the least. But within ten minutes of meeting him we’d completely forgotten who we were speaking to, and were so taken with his intellect, intuition and insight into human behaviour its now hard for us to look at him as a convicted criminal.’
Since releasing Numbers, Groundglass have been working on a series, developing two more shorts which cover the 26 and 27 gangs extensively. The feature film on Turner Adams is now in development and is planned for release in 2017.
For more information visit the Groundglass website.