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TWIST (article first published : 2004-10-7)

Twist is a feature film that takes Charles Dickens's classic novel Oliver Twist and relocates it in contemporary South Africa. It is one of 23 projects supported by the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT), which receives funds from Trust founding partner Nedbank.

The director is Tim Greene (33) who has already won acclaim for Tsha-Tsha, the SABC1 prime-time youth drama series set and shot in the hamlet of Peddie, between Grahamstown and East London.

Like Oliver himself, Tim Greene asked for more. And he got it, though it was no easy task. At the beginning of 2003, Greene began raising the R1 million he needed to shoot the screenplay that had grown out of his adaptation of Dickens. He stood in the Cape Town and Johannesburg traffic with a placard reading: "Hi, my name is Tim. I am an independent film maker. I have written a film called Twist. I am looking for 1,000 investors with R1,000 to spare. Please help!"

By the end of May 2003, he had 837 investors - or, as he calls them, Lucky Champions. Then ACT weighed in with R100,000 and the magic million mark was reached. Greene could start turning his screenplay into a 16mm film.

Twist takes the Oliver of the book and makes him Twist, a Muslim boy, who is brought up in a Swartland orphanage because his mother died giving birth to him. Twist is bought and put to work in the vineyards of the Western Cape but escapes to Cape Town, where he lives as a street child. There he falls in with a gang of young thieves run by Feyagin, described by Greene as an "amakwerekwere West African guy".

It's an ingenious and pointed reworking of the original, touching on many issues, from child abuse to xenophobia and racism. Not only does it demonstrate the enduring nature of Dickens, but also the vision and inexhaustible determination of Greene. While the shooting of Twist might seem to be the culmination of Greene's fund-raising campaign, it was only a significant step in the production process. There was, for example, the large question of post-production costs of about R1.5 million, for the musical soundtrack and other technical aspects. He approached the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), the statutory body set up by Government to fund the making of South African films. In late March 2004, the NFVF presented him with R1 million, which virtually guarantees that all post-production work on Twist will be on the South African screens early next year.

The film employed a crew of 60 and a cast of 40 in a shooting period of 21 days that included preparation and wrap. Greene notes that "the 26 street kids who appeared in the film (spending six working days on set) gained valuable knowledge and are now in an infinitely stronger position to be selected for the Linzi Thomas programme to get kids off the streets and into the film industry."

Twist is one of 23 initiatives supported by ACT. It is one of the projects in 12 disciplines that ACT made grants to in its 2003 funding cycle. In the course of that cycle the Trust, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, distributed R1.2 million. Money donated to the Trust is dependent on turnover by Nedbank clients: the more Nedbank Arts clients use their Nedbank Arts affinity accounts, the more ACT receives. To date, the Trust has raised R12 million, with Nedbank having made a significant contribution to the more than R8 million disbursed by ACT since its inception in 1994.




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