By now you have probably seen or are getting ready to watch Showmax’s How To Steal A Country, a documentary so polarizing that it’s unbelievable and very much a gripping watch. In case you haven’t latched onto it yet, we recently wrote something which will hopefully convince you to watch immediately. In addition to the early screener they kindly afforded us, the team at Showmax also gave us the chance to (virtually) sit down with the award winning architects (Creator, Rehad Desai and Director, Mark J Kaplan) of the documentary. Both were quite vocal and each with their own perspectives but with one central message coming out, their love and passion for this country…
What was the motivation behind this documentary?
Rehad: The Gupta leaks provided an opportunity to show what was really happening behind all the rhetoric of radical economic transformation and the media being a tool of white monopoly capital.
Mark: I wanted to address my feelings of outrage on reading the Gupta leak revelations that followed like a torrent, telling us how bad the corruption was. And, a sense that something needed to be done to explain the modus operandi of State Capture, which was precisely what the leaks did. Added to this was the anger that this was all managed with enablers from the business community, such as the banks and accounting firms, and that here we were faced by something that not only had international connections but also replicated other instances of State Capture around the globe.
It’s brilliantly shot. Please tell us about the logistics. How difficult (or otherwise) was it to shoot? And how long did it take you?
Rehad: We shot the film over 18 months and sought to make the material as congruent with specific beats of the story as possible. Content led the form. It is an international story so it was important that we show as much as possible.
You obviously have a passion to shoot real life stories and ones that are most meaningful and impactful to society, where does the inspiration to do such work come from?
Rehad: We both come from activist backgrounds and this impulse remains a strong vein in our story telling. In the wider sense we tell the stories we do as part of a strategic response to the questions we face as society.
Mark: Yes. For me the passion to produce these kinds of films is because I care about human rights. I am moved by the people who stand up and speak truth to power and I see documentary as a way also of engaging with viewers at an emotional as well as a head level. In the bad old days of Apartheid, I was put in solitary confinement for my documentary work. I was thrown out of the country and when I returned it was through my films that I found a way to contribute to rebuilding this society.
The documentary leaves one fuming mainly because the individuals involved in state capture still haven’t been held accountable nor behind bars yet (which is where they all belong). Do you think it will ever get to that stage or be fully resolved?
Rehad: COVID 19 has placed everything on pause but I am confident that we will come out much stronger, with much more emphasis on caring and accountability in the interest of people. We now have a window of opportunity to reset course.
Mark: Fully resolved? Unfortunately I don’t think this will be the case. The rot runs too deep. I do not think there is sufficient political will to hold all those responsible to account. Corruption as evidenced in the film is just the tip of the iceberg. What chance that all those politically connected see their day in court? Our institutions have been eviscerated. The huge cost of this is today playing out in the context of the Corona virus. Our state coffers are barren. Our people have been fleeced and are impoverished. They were supposed to be the beneficiaries, not the victims. That leaves us all naked and vulnerable. And angry.
On the other hand, the story we tell in the film is also a story of hope, of brave people standing up at great personal cost to corruption, to misused political power. And it is also a story of institutional resilience in the form of the judiciary and the fourth estate.
Great and very patriotic individuals in their own right. In the fight against corruption and equality for all in our country there’s no doubt that we need more stories like these. The only way we will have progress is to make sure that all the rot is brought to bare with equal, appropriate action taken swiftly. Thank you to storytellers such as Rehad and Mark who continually play a role in getting us one step closer to true freedom, befitting of what tomorrow signals, Freedom Day. If you haven’t seen it then make sure to watch How To Steal A Country currently streaming on Showmax.
Our thanks to the Showmax Team for granting us this opportunity. It goes without saying that this very well also extends to both Rehad Desai and Mark J Kaplan for their time.