In the loop

Child abuse and the ongoing concerted efforts to decrease South Africa’s appalling statistics are again in the spotlight thanks to the power of the annual Vuka! Awards.

The two winning commercials in the best overall category at this year’s award ceremony, held in Johannesburg this week, both took an unflinching and hard-hitting look at the subject.

Representing MultiChoice’s flagship corporate social investment programme, the Vuka! Awards encourage established and aspirant creatives to make a TV commercial for a charity or cause that is close to their hearts in the form of a public service announcement (PSA). The top 20 commercials — 10 made by professionals and 10 by industry new­comers — will be screened on DStv channels from January next year.

The overall winner in the professional category is the PSA Tokoloshe, which raised awareness for the South African Abused Children’s Fund. It was produced by Adam Thal of Star Productions and directed by Verushka Vogt.

The commercial is a heart-wrenching look at a child who puts his bed on bricks to escape the tokoloshe, but cannot escape the monsters in his own family. The tag line reads: ‘Some children have more to be afraid of than just the tokoloshe.”

Says Thal, whose short film Under the Rainbow was showcased at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival: ‘All credit must go to Verushka, who came up with the concept. She’s a researcher who is trying to get into directing and we decided to give her a chance. She told us her idea and we thought it was brilliant and made the decision to back her. We were thrilled with the result as we feel it gets the message across.”

In the best newcomer category, the overall winner was We are Sure, which was produced and directed by Leon von Solms for Rape Crisis Cape Town. It is a poignant look at a young woman exploring whether she was abused as a young child by a relative who bought her ice-cream and then took ‘payment” by touching her all over.

Another big winner this year in the professional categories is the DEA Tik commercial for Heart of Healing and the Drug Education Agency. Produced by Jeanne Watson for Big Bang Stunts, it took honours in three categories: best direction (Gabriel Williams), best cinematography (Arthur West) and best sound design and original music (Digital Forest). It is a bold and ambitious look at the scourge of the drug tik (crystal meth) among schoolchildren.

Best concept and script went to anti-smoking ad Tar (Graydon Pieterse and Marcelle du Plessis for Net#Work BBDO), best editing went to There’s No Going Back (Josh Galvin for Y&R CT) and best animation was won by The Rubbish Monster (Braam Jordaan for Condor Cape Town). There was no award made this year in the best humour professional category.

In the newcomer categories, the anti-smoking animated ad Smoked Beef walked away with three awards: best direction (Mathew Bilton), best humour (Bilton) and best animation (Bilton, Niki Cilliers and Tom Kleinenberg). The Champion for People Against Women Abuse took best editing (Steven Mabunda) and best sound design/original music (Mabunda). There were no awards made in the concept and script category this year and the judges recommended that agencies need to get involved to mentor young scriptwriters.

All entries were judged on merit and the judges did not know who the entrants were.

The Mail & Guardian is a media partner and will be running a full Vuka! supplement on December 8

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