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Filmmakers pay tribute to Zulfah Otto-Sallies

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Tributes have poured in for well-known Cape Town filmmaker Zulfah Otto Sallies who passed away on Friday due to complications from a stroke that she suffered last month. The Bo-Kaap native, probably best-known for her book Diekie van die Bo-Kaap, has had a huge impact on the Cape Town film industry and many local filmmakers attribute Otto-Sallies with guiding them early on in their careers.

Nadine Cloete, a local filmmaker and ex-student of Otto-Sallies said that she was in her third year of film studies at the University of Cape Town (UCT) when she chose Zulfah to be her supervisor on her class project. Cloete has risen to prominence with the recent release of Action Kommandant, a documentary based on the life of slain South African liberation fighter, Ashley Kriel.

“I met her when I was 20 and at that time (my) university was affiliated to different filmmakers and one of them was Zulfah. We were given the option to choose filmmakers and I saw Zulfah’s name on the list and I immediately chose her to be my supervisor,” explained Cloete.

“It was my job to do the camera work for the project and Zulfah invited me to her house to practice my camera skills. She gave me her camera and told me to film in her community.”

Cloete says she was so surprised when this happened because Zulfah was a well-known filmmaker and Cloete was just a student.

“I was just in awe of this woman who had so generously taken me on through her work. As a young person having Zulfah believe in you means so much.”

During her lifetime, Otto-Sallies produced many films as well as plays and short stories. Cloete says that Otto-Sallies’s work that inspired her was a short fiction film set in Bo-Kaap about a drug addict who leaves rehab and goes back to her community to try and raise her daughter, but finds challenges.

“What further inspired me was that Zulfah is this woman of colour just doing her thing and was very proud of her community,” Cloete went further.

“Also in her work she was very good at editing and she had the talent to know what the crux of a story was.”

Founder of Ex-Con films Munier Parker says Otto-Sallies left a very big hole in the hearts of many filmmakers with her passing.

“Zulfah was responsible for starting the careers of many filmmakers and not just filmmakers, the careers of many people in theatre and production as well,” says Parker.

“She was always generous with her time and she opened the door for many people.”

Parker attributes Otto-Sallies with giving him the push to start his career.

“Zulfha was the one that got me into the industry. Through her I started doing a video production course and I’ve been involved in the industry ever since,” Parker continued.

“She was a dynamic woman and she made you proud of speaking Afrikaans.”

On Facebook, documentary filmmaker Weaam Williams also expressed her sadness.

“She has offered me many words of encouragement in the past. May she rest in peace, and reach Jannah Insha-Allah. May her work continue her memory.”

“From the days of Community Video Education Trust to working with you on Project 10 and then Raya, you have left a great legacy. Always committed, gracious and generous. You have helped so many. You will be sorely missed,” said Steven Markovitz, South African film and television producer.

Production company Big World Cinema, which produced her short film “Raya” (Mama Africa series) in 2001 said she would be remembered very fondly.

“Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”  VOC (Umarah Hartley)

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