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Breaking Molds and Bringing Words to Life

This is the fifth installment of the Global Talent Spotlight, an in-depth look at employees from all over the globe who take their creativity to the next level. From street artists, singers and comedians to painters, authors and documentarians, our FCB family is full of amazingly interesting people who all have a story to share. 

My name is Engelbert Phiri and I am a senior art director at FCB Social Marketing, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. I refer to myself simply as a creative rather trying to strictly define my role. I am a creative who loves art by artists who do not try to fit into a predetermined mold or category. I attempt to create and develop outside the narrow realms of such categories, to highlight universal concerns in a unique manner.

I balance my creative work with independent filmmaking. I have written a number of grant-winning and award-winning short films, some of which have run on the international festival circuit. Life itself is the greatest storyteller and scriptwriter, which is my main source of inspiration. Currently, I am currently working on two documentary films, Alex On Seventh and Spirits Of The Karoo.

Alex On Seventh is in the cinema vérité form, and is a character-driven narrative film that paints an intimate portrait of a matriarch, Claire, and her cat in one of South Africa’s toughest neighborhoods, in Alexandra. Claire is an 85-year-old great-granny full of wise counsel, spirit and aura who lifts the spirits of the young men in her tiny backyard gym. The young men compete in bodybuilding and boxing, and do anything in between to earn a livelihood. The film challenges perceptions of age, beauty and strength and is currently in production.

It was recently selected as a 2014 Durban Filmmart official documentary project. There, Alex On Seventh was awarded the New Cinema Network Award. l get to attend the Rome Film Festival with the New Cinema Network (NCM), the film festival’s co-production market. I will get to present the film’s work in progress to European film funders and commissioning editors during the Festival, which occurs October 19-21.

Spirits Of The Karoo is currently at the development stage. The film is set in the unforgiving, dry and harsh environment of Karoo. The film will take a unique approach: l will co-author it with its teenage characters. It will be an intimate portrait of dedication. It examines interpersonal relationships and the risks involved in following a dream while in the clutches of numerous social challenges.

I make documentaries because l want to entertain, but I also want to engage audiences to motivate them to make positive change. I believe that creative documentaries are a mechanism through which art and stories truly can make a difference.

My endeavors in film help add and sharpen my conceptual and story telling strengths, in addition to the creative delivery with my advertising side. And vice-versa, the discipline and craft that comes from my advertising work at FCB feeds back to film. Whether it is storytelling or narrative, at the end, it is all is storytelling, whether in short form for advertising or long form for film.