CFMS' grads film The Water Dancers selected for DIFF 2018

27 Jun 2018 - 13:30


The Water Dancers documentary, a CFMS Honours graduation production, has been officially selected to screen at the 39th Durban International Film Festival on July 25th at 17:00 at CommunityZA. The screening will mark the short film’s World Premiere.

The Water Dancers is a short documentary about groundbreaking methods of conservation in South Africa, told through dragonflies, the sentinel indicators of their environments. The 25-minute documentary is directed by Robyn Palmer, whose short debut, Cassandra, took home the prize for Best Student Film at the 4th Jozi Film Festival in 2017, and produced by Daniel Ndevu, whose short film, There’s Still Good, premiered at the 38th Durban International Film Festival in 2017. Cinematography is by Tessa Barlin, Editing by Erin Macpherson, with Editing and Colouring by Michael Dawson, all of whom graduated from UCT. The film features an original soundtrack by Stellenbosch-based composer, Kirsten Adams, and is narrated by up-and-coming recording artist, Yoza Mnyanda, of the South African kwaito duo, Darkie Fiction.

From left: Julia Cain (lecturer), Tessa Barlin, Daniel Ndevu, Robyn Palmer, Erin Macpherson, Michael Dawson.


The Water Dancers is based upon the life-long research of Distinguished Professor Michael Samways at the Department for Conservation Ecology and Entomology at Stellenbosch University. Prof. Samways, having been fascinated by dragonflies from childhood, pioneered an intuitive system of conservation that has seen decades of successful implementation amongst plantation compartments in KwaZulu-Natal. This conservation model, known as ‘Ecological Networks,’ marries conservation and production within the same landscape, offering a safe space for natural insects, plants and wildlife to move and flourish while maintaining priority industrial output that humans depend on.

The film offers a journey through the eyes of a dragonfly to understand one of the biggest environmental challenges facing humankind. Touching on the significance of insects to understanding the environment, the degradation of natural landscapes, and the prominent Cape Town water crisis, the filmmakers combine poetry and breathtaking scenery to shed light on a story that is both poignant and timely. 

"Completely out of my comfort zone, with little documentary experience, very little knowledge of dragonflies, and conservation research at all, making this film taught me about the medium of filmmaking, but more importantly, about the beautiful world around us," director Robyn Palmer described her experience. "Leaning very much on my style as a fictional director, I prefer to show rather than tell and, with the focus of this film being on insects, that is exactly what I had to do." She adds that "this film should instil in its audience a sense of accountability and optimism for innovative solutions to our environmental crises."

According to the Water Dancers team, "A premiere at DIFF is especially meaningful given the time we spent in KwaZulu-Natal, filming the wildlife and the Ecological Networks among forestry plantations in the Midlands. We aim to inspire South Africans by focusing on the innovative work being done on home ground."

The Water Dancers will screen on July 25th, 17:00 at CommunityZA and July 27th, 20:00 at uShaka Marine World. For more information contact Daniel Ndevu at