Digitalisation is currently hot in Africa. Many of the recent tech interventions focus on one specific issue. But in the South African township Delft the community welcomes not only a state-of-the art call centre, but also a full package of smartphone apps, a virtual mall, and their own local internet access in a strive to transform the entire ecosystem of their gangster torn township. The stretch of the city is only noticed by nightfall is an observative documentary about new economic models in low tech environments.
Léon is a young father living in the gangster plagued township of Delft. For him Delft is just a steppingstone in his pursuit for a better life outside the townships. When he meets the tech savvy pastor Charles he believes his luck is about to change as he decides to participate in the digital community they are trying to build.
As local businesses and small shop owners are threatened by the arrival of a multinational shopping mall, pastor Charles and his right-hand Aubrey meet up with software entrepreneur Nour Addine. Together they join forces to install a state-of-the-art call centre in Delft, aiming to trigger a revolution for the entire township community. While the works at the call centre slowly proceed, they realize that digital initiatives can only be successful if the inhabitants of Delft have access to internet. But being online is a luxury most people in the townships can’t afford. Real community empowerment is happening as locals start selling cheap data on the streets, provided by masts they put up in the area themselves. By creating this self-sufficient digital community paster Charles hopes Delft can become a blueprint to inspire other low or no income communities throughout Africa and beyond.
While Léon is trying to find his place in this digital community, we discover change is not as easy as it seems. But even though opportunities are scarce, and one setback is replaced by the next, it does not stop the Delft people from dreaming.
Bram Crols was trained as director/producer at the Brussels film school and the European Film College in Denmark. His documentary TOWNSHIP JIVE (2006), toured the globe with more than 15 international festival selections, winning the best documentary film award at the Ibiza IFF.
In 2007 BUILDING A LEGEND, a Belgian-Holland-Finnish co-production was aired on RTBF, Arte Belgique, YLE, AVRO. In 2008 Bram joined Associate Directors and has since build up an extensive experience as a documentary producer of about 20 feature length documentaries. In between producing he has directed the Belgian-Lithuanian coproduction ETERNAL GIRL, on the invitation of Vilnius Cultural Capital of Europe and is currently the creative driving force of the Delft Valley docu.
My love for South-Africa runs deep. In 1994, shortly after the ending of apartheid, which shaped my political views during childhood, I visited the Rainbow Nation for the first time. I immediately felt attracted to its cultural diversity but I was also fascinated by its rough and ready townships. Back then there was a lack of a positive narrative. Sure, there were the fairy tales about the 'lucky few’ who managed to get out of the townships, but there were hardly any meaningful stories about community makeovers.
It led me to making Township Jive (2006), a feature documentary about the South-African music scene, for which I spent periods of time living and working in the interesting but hard township reality. Besides a well-received documentary, my time in the township also brought me an extensive network of people and organisations working in and around the townships. More than 10 years after Township Jive a story about a community in digital transition grabbed me. I was instantly charmed by the possibility to once again observe a positive and meaningful story about and with locals of a disadvantaged township.
In Delft many interesting and innovative processes were coming together, propelling the community’s eﬀorts for a better future. Many of these processes were achievable because of simple ICT applications and a peer-to-peer mindset. The idea of peer-to-peer has not only been adopted by visionary thinkers and activists, but also by politicians and (global) entrepreneurs. Current ICT developments reinforce the peer-to-peer philosophy, as cheap communication methods and sharing tools grow worldwide. Peer-to-peer goes against the doom scenarios of liberal capitalism and gives communities the opportunity to develop, adapt and progress independently.
This sense of community isn't solely reserved for trendy neighbourhood networks in advantaged urban areas, but exists all over the world, even in South African townships. The Stretch of the city is only noticed by nightfall depicts the processes and opportunities of local community development. Focussing on the empowerment of the local community in Delft, this film will hopefully be an inspiration for individuals and communities in Europe, Africa, Middle East and beyond.
Directed by Bram Crols
Dop - Dominique Vandenhoudt
Editor - Sam Sermon
Sound Design - Jamie MacLean
Colour grading - Oscar Spierenberg
Music - Jon Birdsong
Original Graphics - JangoJim
Graphics - Sil De Boeck
Duration: 87' feature documentary and 8 x 11' short form series
Supported by DGD
Language: English, Afrikaans
Subtitles: English, Dutch