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Sunday, January 10, 2010


(Claire Angelique - pic by Suzy Bernstein)

From Durban, first female Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for Film shatters boundaries.

Claire Angelique, 2010 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for film, is an explosion of boundary-pushing creative expression, in the most literal sense of the word. She is also the first female recipient of this award. Angelique is not only one of South Africa’s edgiest upcoming scriptwriters and filmmakers, but also an award-winning choreographer, dancer and video-artist. In between juggling multiple creative careers, she has managed 15 bands and DJ’s, coordinated national community radio youth programmes, ventured into public relations, and writes for many of the major contemporary South African arts, music and entertainment publications. All of this at barely 30!

“This award has put me on the best natural high I've had since being green-lighted into the production of my first feature film My Black Little Heart,” said Angelique about winning the Young Artist Award. My Black Little Heart, a dark and deeply personal narrative exposing Durban’s sinister side, was produced by Zentropa Entertainment with cinematography by Slumdog Millionaire’s Anthony Dod Mantle. It featured on the 2009 National Arts Festival’s Film programme in Grahamstown, after premièring at the Durban International Film Festival in 2008.

“To be assaulted by a South African film made by a young Durban girl which is totally original and unique and which is made with a total respect and understanding of film language is very rare,” said Trevor Steele Taylor, National Arts Festival committee member for film. “She is one the best that we have in South Africa, and her talent should not be ignored.”

When asked about the value of the award for her as a young artist, Angelique replied: “First of all, its vindication of one’s potential ability. I think any artist at some point, or more realistically at many intervals, is gripped by the icy hand of insecurity. Questions that seep into your creative consciousness are no longer conducive to new ideas or astounding revelations that can be transported into your chosen medium, but irritating stabs of self-doubt. Awards won are like glimpses into your audiences psyche, they're a gift that qualifies your endeavours,” she added.

Angelique graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Film and Television from the Cape Town International Film School in 2004, after completing a B.A. majoring in Drama / Performance Studies, English and Internet Science through the University of Natal. She was presented with the Most Outstanding Student and Student Most Likely to Succeed awards from the Cape Town International Film School in 2002. In 2004 she was the first South African filmmaker to be selected, from 3,600 applicants, to attend the Berlin International Film Festival’s Berlinale Talent Campus, and was also a scholarship recipient for the New York University’s Cannes Film intensive course, run by Robert Nickson.

In 2007, she was a winner of the SA Script Institute award for the script of the feature film White Mountain, and in the same year she also bagged a Levis award for SA Music Video Directing, as well as a Mondi Shanduka Creative Journalism award. Her short films, documentaries, music videos and video-art pieces have been screened at galleries and festivals across South Africa and abroad.

“Claire is unique, a true individual,” said acclaimed South African film director Darryl James Roodt. “She sees the world in a way that no one else does.”

Angelique has also acted the lead role in theatrical productions like Viagra Falls and Daddy’s Little Girl, and has co-written a comic book based on one of her films. She is no stranger to the spotlight, having performed as a professional ballerina, diverging into contemporary African dance as one of the first non-black dancers with the Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre.

“I'm looking forward to getting down and dirty with the opportunity to create a new work,” said Angelique about her expectations for the year ahead. “I think my attitude, though I have created many music videos, shorts and documentaries, has always been to ‘go for a long film or go home’.” She will be focusing her creative efforts on two major projects in the following year, White Mountain and Upper Cuts, both full-length feature films.

“There is no artist more deserving of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award than Claire Angelique,” said filmmaker, writer, poet and fine artist Aryan Kaganof. “If she never makes another film after My Black Little Heart she will go down in history as the author of the most powerful South African film made to date.”

Angelique recalls that her creative flair has been evident from a very early age. “As a child I was always performing for anybody who would care to watch. I would disappear down the road, and my parents would find me dancing for neighbours on their lawn, whilst they sat transfixed by a five-year-old’s play, performed for them whilst they ate their braai on the stoep!” She also had an intense love affair with books for as long as she can remember, always writing and keeping journals. She feels that the youth of South Africa are searching for art that encapsulates their dreams, their fashions, their disgusts, their frustrations and their independent spirit, which she feels will be the future of South Africa. “The award is headed in the right direction by embracing the mind and soul that destroys, rethinks, then reassembles to embrace the new or unexplored,” she said. “By embracing young artists we are embracing the future and rewarding a new generation’s point of view.”

A school friend of Angelique’s reminded her recently that she told everyone, from the age of eight, that she would be a movie director and put all her friends in her films. “I don't remember saying that at all, but it proved true,” she laughed.

The Young Artist Awards were started in 1981 by the National Arts Festival to acknowledge emerging, relatively young South African artists who have displayed an outstanding talent in their artistic endeavours. These prestigious awards are presented annually to deserving artists in different disciplines, affording them national exposure and acclaim. Standard Bank took over the sponsorship of the awards in 1984 and presented Young Artist Awards in all the major arts disciplines over their 26-year sponsorship, as well as posthumous and special recognition awards. The winners feature on the main programme of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown and receive financial support for their Festival participation, as well as a cash prize.