One Day on Earth is happy to share with the community the work of Michael Struwig, who documented his participation in a 350.org work party in Cape Town, South Africa on 10.10.10.
Who are you and what is your profession? I'm Michael Struwig, and I'm currently a Matric high school student (Senior Year in the US). Unofficially you could, however, call me a casual independent film maker.
Can you tell us a little about your background? I was born and mostly raised in Cape Town, South Africa. Growing up in South Africa is an interesting experience, especially considering the fact that I was born in 1992 - I grew up while South Africa entered an era of peace and reconciliation. I've grown with my country, as part of a new generation that is (supposedly) free of discrimination and political hatred.
Politically, South Africa
has always been an extraordinary place to grow up in - the culture, the beauty and the people. It feels as if hundreds of years of history pump through my veins. And while many of my friends wish to move out of Africa and go overseas, I'm tempted to stay. I am proud of who I am and what I represent. This part of me was represented by my promotional video I created for One Day On Earth a couple of weeks ago.
Interestingly, my culture isn't entirely African. In 2001, my family moved to Paris, France for a few months while my Dad worked as a surgeon. I didn't attend school, instead immersing myself in Europe and the completely different culture that exists there. This overseas stay resulted in visits to London, Morocco, the US and other parts of Europe. At such a young and observant age, I took everything in. My family still makes references to experiences we've had on that journey, even though it happened nearly a decade ago.
My parents tried to show my
sister and I the world, they never hid us from anything. Culture shock became a familiar feeling - one that demanded exploration and discovery. It's clearly something that impacted me while I was growing up, and still does today. I often find myself feeling much more comfortable around people and friends from overseas. That cultural-link I have with people from almost everywhere around the world is what I cherish the most.
What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
It may seem rather strange, but it was a video game. I've always been a huge gamer - I remember playing classics like Doom and Quake whilst sitting on my dad's lap. Not really understanding what was going on, but engrossed and focussed nevertheless. When I was around fifteen or sixteen, I picked up The Witcher. What made The Witcher so special and unique was the way it told the story of a morally neutral hero in a universe that didn't consist of the typical "black and white" good and evil. It was instead a moral-grey area - there was only evil and lesser evil. The story was told in an extremely cinematic and engrossing manner. You became attached to characters, and choices had consequences. It made me experience and analyze emotion in a very different way.
At this point I realized the tremendous power of mediums such as
games, and more importantly films, had over their audience. They had the ability to make people feel things they don't normally feel. It always astonished me how some stunning film making could leave an audience completely heartbroken - they were completely absorbed in a fabricated world. This sort of experience happened to me, and something went off in my head. I was like, "Hmm. I want to be able to make people feel emotion. I want to tell stories." And that's essentially what led to me picking up a camera and making films. The results speak for themselves.
Who or what do you most admire?
Out of the many role models I have, I admire my Biology teacher most of all. I've had the pleasure of being taught by him for over 3 years of my high school career. He was a man who didn't tolerate disobedience, lack of effort or disrespect. He taught us the importance of being entitled to the truth instead of our own opinion. He taught me how to think critically, how to be of value to the world and how to be a person of honour. His undying passion for teaching was astonishing - he'd have 25 students completely engaged and focused on what he was currently lecturing him on.
He seemed to value nothing more than the absolute
delight on a student's face when the "ah-hah" moment occurred, and they mentally saw the puzzle pieces of evolution or marine ecology slot together in a way they would never have imagined possible. He inspired fierce loyalty from those around him. I'm astounded someone like him isn't among the world's elite - this is a man who actually makes a difference. He's changed the way I see the world and the way I've constructed myself as I've grown and matured emotionally and mentally. I admire anyone who can do that to a person. Without this magnanimous
man, I wouldn't be the person I am today.
What did you film on 10.10.10
On 10.10.10 I decided to film a ground allotment party, which was one of the 7,000+ 350.org work parties around the world, in Cape Town. Daniel Robinson, the organizer, managed to get permission for residents of the area to dig up a defunct tennis court, and to use this fresh land in order to grow
vegetables. Families would be assigned 5 x 5m spaces of land, which they could do with as they pleased. Some decided to grow potatoes, others vegetables, and some simply planted indigenous plants.
absolutely terrible weather, the turnout was impressive. It indicated that people were very supportive of this idea of sustainable living - they simply needed a platform in order to express their desire to make something work. I genuinely felt, like I said in my film, that this was the start of something big. It finally feels like the so-called Green trend wasn't simply a trend anymore. It had become a movement. I wanted to film the beginning of this movement.
Thank you so much for the interview and the opportunity to share my work. To everyone who has commented and sent me emails or messages, thank you! It's been absolutely tremendous hearing how my work has touched you. Best of luck for the future.