About the Director

 

Michael Cross is a Durban-based filmmaker who has spent more than 20 years producing documentaries that illuminate artists and individuals. Along with a number of short-form documentaries for television, his films “Bafo Bafo - What Kind?!” premiered at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) in 2005 and “Rockstardom - The Journey Of a Small-Town Songwriter" at the 2012 Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival. His documentary, “Jiving and Dying - The Radio Rats Story” premiered at DIFF in 2016 before nationwide screenings and it’s acquisition by MNet in 2017. His most recent film, “The Fun’s Not Over – The James Phillips Story” premiered at the 2018 Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival where it won the Audience Award for Best South African Documentary.

The Fun's Not Over - The James Phillips Story

by Richard Haslop

 

Emerging from Springs, an apparently unprepossessing East Rand mining town that had nevertheless spawned the only briefly famous yet enduringly loved Radio Rats, James Phillips became about as close to a cult figure as South African rock music has produced.

 

Having announced himself through the darkly political punk influences of Corporal Punishment, and then the near-mythical "Voice Of Nooit" cassette by the short-lived Illegal Gathering, this English-speaking preacher’s son, by then not altogether comfortably disguised as Bernoldus Niemand, persuaded a previously somewhat sheepish Afrikaans musical underground into the public eye as he kickstarted the important Voëlvry movement.

 

As leader of the Cherry Faced Lurchers he wrote and recorded "Shot Down", considered by several commentators to be among South Africa’s greatest ever rock songs, and was responsible for a number of wonderful live rock ’n’ roll memories at a time when good South African news was hard to find. Seemingly the unlikeliest of academics, he undertook formal musical studies, turning in his "Wie Is Bernoldus Niemand?" album as a university thesis, and his considerable musical growth was soon revealed in the composition and arrangements for his last album, "Sunny Skies", while the posthumously released demos, "Soul Ou", the title an impressively accurate description of Phillips himself, demonstrated the increased depth and insight of his songwriting.

 

Yet, for all the respect and admiration he engendered among his peers, Phillips, who died in 1995 from injuries sustained in a motor accident, was never more than a marginal figure in the greater scheme of South African musical things.

 

In this beautifully pitched documentary, full of humour yet deeply moving at the same time, Durban film maker Michael Cross ("Rockstardom: The Journey of a Small Town Songwriter"; "Jiving And Dying: The Radio Rats Story") covers all this and a great deal more as he gets right under Phillips’s skin, transcending what might easily have become a cosy cultishness of reminiscence and rumour in order to tell an important South African story.

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