Sunday, April 6, 2014

SAFTAS 2014: Oprah! Lady Gaga! The Saftas supposed to celebrate South African TV and film still has a desperate yearning to be American.

"I was like Oprah. You get a Safta! You get a Safta! You get a Safta!"

That is how Tumi Morake as co-host of the television travesty known as the 7th South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas) for 2014, tried to joke in the botched-again live broadcast on Saturday night on SABC3.

Not only is Oprah Winfrey American and could Tumi Morake not bother with, or come up with, a more proper localised joke, but even the whole reference is old and dated. 

Comedy should be au courant, girl.

And it wasn't the only Oprah joke at the National Film and Video Foundation's Saftas - even her co-host Alan Committie earlier chimed in with his own Oprah jokes.

Then there was Lady Gaga - neither a TV star, nor a film star - who made an appearance as a ZA News puppet after Alan Committie said last year that Safta viewers got to see Samuel L. Jackson.

As if the Saftas should be about what type and caliber of international stars filming in South Africa can be roped in for a local awards show.  

It belies a sentiment, an unexpressed yearning, and is a devastating reflection of what the Saftas really sees and heralds as good and great, or perhaps even what the South African film and TV industry longs for, reaches for and aspires to be: still American.

Listen to, look at, and analyse the various quips and chirps, mannerisms and fronting from the various personalities, actors and cultural references and constructs at the 2014 South African Film and Television Awards.

You'll notice how - consciously and unconsciously - seemingly everybody imitates the stereotypical American playbook, both in terms of how they think they're supposed to act at events of this nature from having watched too many Emmys, Grammys and Oscars; as well as subtly endorsing that what is American is better than what is South African.

It's the underlying current and the unchecked, skewed values quietly and constantly reaffirming that America is better, or that American TV and film is the (real) benchmark. 

If you use Oprah - not once or twice but thrice - as your reference; if you use Lady Gaga and Charlize Theron as Tinseltown-based puppets for your reference point because you think they are the people everybody will know; if you tell people "Remember last year when we had Samuel L. Jackson (instead of the local sought-after star(s) you got), you're in fact telling and signaling to not just the local film and TV industry but every viewer that what is American is more important and deserves more recognition that what is authentically South African.

It's sad and disappointing coming from an awards show supposedly there to build up, celebrate and recognise South Africa's film and television industry.