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South African Premiere of Between a Shoe and the Roof Goes Ahead Despite Electricity Blackout

May 26, 2015

On Friday, May 15, 2015, the film Between a Shoe and the Roof had its South African premiere at The Warehouse in Cape Town. A crowd of 70 people gathered to watch the documentary film, produced by Regent College and created by alumni Theran Knighton-Fitt and Melanie Brown. The film explores the many different cultural expressions of the gospel of Christ throughout the world. Theran Knighton-Fitt reflects on the film screening, which was marked by some last-minute hand-wringing when he discovered that an electricity blackout had been scheduled for the time of the event.

It was the week before the screening of our film when we first learned about a scheduled power outage for the area surrounding the Warehouse at the time of our event. We had advertised to start at 7:00 pm and were planning on screening the film at 7:30. The scheduled blackout was for 6:00 to 8:00 pm. 

Scheduled electricity blackout, you might ask? These blackouts, or "load sheddings" as they're locally called, have become a common fact of life in South Africa, whose deteriorating power grid has insufficient capacity to service the whole country. Load sheddings are regularly scheduled for specific times and geographical zones as a way to keep the entire grid from collapsing.

So here we were, scrambling to make another plan—find a diesel generator or a new venue—when we realized the gift we had been handed and decided to leave the plan as it stood. We would use the blackout to our advantage.

One of the organizations involved in hosting our film screening happened to be SHED Racism—a collection of activists, organizations, and churches working together to promote anti-racism content, mostly during times of scheduled electricity blackouts. The organization encourages people to use the times of no power to engage in, dialogue, and pray for the realities of racism in South Africa; in other words, to use the blackouts as interruptions to bring people back to a stance that promotes “power against racism.”

What better way, then, but to use the scheduled blackout as an introduction to the vision of SHED Racism and to engage people in a discussion about the realities of racism in our country and city, by candlelight? 

The discussions and prayer that followed were profound for many. Kate Senekal, the founder of SHED Racism, tactfully handled the flow of the discussion. We split into small groups and shared personal stories, such as our very first experience of becoming aware of racism. The stories across the diverse demographics were very different, but the ambient candlelight, and shared experience of having no power, made conversation easy and enabled people to share powerful personal experiences.

When the power came on again at 8 pm, the groups were still so engaged in conversation that we didn't start the screening for another 20 minutes! And when we finally watched the film, the discussion and questions were as incredibly engaging and encouraging as the discussions at the start of our event. There were moments of emotional vulnerability, and comments about the authenticity shown by the characters as they struggled through the film. My own South African story resonated with many people and provided a foundation for honest sharing.

We tried to wrap things up a few times but more and more hands kept going up and we kept extending the Q&A, while making sure people felt free to leave. No one did. The event went on about one hour longer than originally planned.

The scheduled power outage, which initially threatened our event, actually made it that much more powerful. It created a communal platform for sharing openly and honestly with those who were not like us—about the very experience of interacting with people who are not like us.

This event was presented by three local South African organizations:

The Warehouse exists to serve the South African church network in its response to poverty, injustice, and division. The organization works with local churches in all communities, helping them to implement sound, effective, and practical acts and renewed attitudes, to see transformation in their communities.

SHED Racism is a collaboration of activists, organisations, and churches working together to promote anti-racism content, dialogue, and resources.

Freedom Mantle desires to awaken a new generation of great and inspiring leaders in a post-Mandela South Africa.

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