The Art of Fallism documents the history of the student protest movements in South Africa which began in 2015, starting with #RhodesMustFall and ending with #TransCapture. It interviews artist-activists, giving their first-hand accounts of the events from their perspectives. Like any movement, there is as much challenge building solidarity within as destroying oppression without.
I think this film manages to cover a wide range of activists’ experiences. The myth of a Black monolith is destroyed as you see women talking about destroying the patriarchy, men from working class neighbourhoods challenging the middle-class environment of campus, trans people tackling the erasure of cissexism and transmisogyny. People are learning from each other as much as they are learning about how to take political action.
And you get these waves as successes embolden the call for yet more radical action. And repositioning as activists look at their praxis and say, “How could we do this better? Who are we excluding? Who are we not representing?” Because none of us are free until we are all free.
And the journey they are on is as much a decolonisation of the mind as the campus. In the structure of dehumanisation of human beings under racist colonialist imperialism, how did that form how we think about gender, queerness, sexuality, disability, the body, and class, as well as race? And within a fight against racism, people who have always been the oppressed begin to see intersectional privileges they hold in relation to others. And the work to do better, to destroy the processes of marginalisation, is how you build the solidarity necessary to achieve your goals.
In some ways this is a joyful film about hope. In some ways this is a brutal film about repression. But I feel this is also a coming of age film, a film about maturing into a more conscientious adult. That the movement was the real education.
It’s also a good film about how art is integral to the most important issues of our lives. From the ability to pay for education, survive state violence, and battle systematic oppression, art is what holds together people and ideas.
This started with a statue of Rhodes. Yes, he was a political statement about the dominant societal ideas of white supremacy, but it was also a work of art. And in that sculpture it managed to convey so much meaning, that is sparked a generation to revolt.
The art that is produced in the wake of its fall will be just as important a cultural legacy. And that is what this film examines – The Art of Fallism.