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Forerunners is an award-winning South African documentary, directed and filmed by Simon Wood from Saltpeter productions and produced by the UCT Unilever Institute.

The documentary, which charts the lives of four middle-class black South Africans, originated from a UCT Unilever Institute research project which investigated South Africa’s burgeoning black middle class. Interviews with a number of research respondents revealed a complex relationship between traditional values and consumer behaviour, as well as some compelling stories about how ordinary South Africans are negotiating societal transformation.

The film received the coveted Dikalo trophy and was one of only two films to receive an award for excellence at the 2010 Cannes International Pan African Film Festival where it received a Jury award. In 2011 Forerunners was selected for screening at the Montreal International Black Film Festival and at the United Nations Association Film Festival in San Francisco, where it won the award for best cinematography.

Announcing the prestigious Jury prize, the Pan African Film Festival judges praised this rarely told positive story about Africa’s development:

for its writing quality, film mastery as well as the mature and modern outlook of a category of people that are searching for perspective, permitting themselves a professional career, making a comfortable life for themselves far away from the poverty of their childhood.”

Jury member Sofi Delaage wrote that while the world knew a lot about both the poverty-stricken and the very rich in South Africa,

we didn’t know about how the children of the past will reconstruct the future and it’s very nice to follow them and to know they exist and that there is a possibility of hope and a better future. Forerunners gives you hope that it’s possible to create a new society.

Further praise for Forerunner at the 2011 Cannes Pan African Film Festival from Basile Ngangue Ebelle – Festival Director:

It represents an Africa, a South Africa, full of colour. We have a mirror to the world of the future, a South Africa that is full of hope. Across the film one sees South African creativity and that is the strength, that is the beauty, and that is like … an element of the driving force of life. It is a documentary that brings us a lot of hope. When one watches it, one cannot remain indifferent. The film is a beautiful aperture through which to see life.

Catherine Ruelle – Honorary President:

… [the film’s characters] don’t forget about their ancient traditions and they won’t forget. It’s very important for us, we all lose that in Europe, we are losing our memory, we are losing our past, we are losing our traditions, our values.

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