Helicopter Man


Gracing important ones-to-watch lists and a recent Financial Times Weekend Magazine cover, Juno Calypso is the British artist everybody’s talking about. She jokes on her instagram account, “When ur low key broke but your face is on the front cover of the Financial Times.” When people are doing well in the press, we assume they must be doing well in all aspects of life. But what happens after the news cameras go home?

Closer to home, in June 2015 we heard the news of Vusumuzi Mbatha, the unemployed man living in an informal settlement in Rustenburg who built a helicopter in his back garden. Thousands of people read, shared and commented as the news piece went viral on social media platforms. Dubbed ‘Helicopter Man’, his story was an inspirational one. Headlines declared, “Rustenburg’s helicopter man’s dream comes true.”

Interested to know more about Mbatha’s ingenuity, a small team of filmmakers from Embassy and Snap Pictures¬†travelled to Siza, in South Africa’s North West Province to find him. Four trips and a year later, this is the glimpse into Mbatha‚Äôs life that people may not have realised when they first heard about him, as told by the ‘Helicopter Man’ himself.

The team didn’t have a plan to begin with except to hear Mbatha’s story firsthand and visited without a camera to first get to know him¬†and his brother, Thami who acted as translator. They told us, “We didn’t set out to create a ‚Äòstatement‚Äô piece. Vusi‚Äôs story really struck a chord with us when we first heard about him in the media, and so we decided to see if we could find him ourselves and find out more about him. There were obviously many underlying themes surrounding Vusi and his current situation (unemployed, living near Marikana, a victim of broken promises) but we tried to keep the story as neutral as possible, instead letting the viewer infer their own themes. We were also very cognisant of politicising it or giving it a negative spin, so we really just tried to keep to his story and how he sees it all, which is that he didn‚Äôt have a job, so he built a helicopter.”



Helicopter Man

Concept and Creative: Peter van Jaarsveld & Gabrielle Gray
Director: Christiaan Rautenbach
Camera: Peter van Jaarsveld, Christiaan Rautenbach, Nick Viljoen
Production: Sabelo Twyabi, Thobelani Faku, Nikki Bowden, Stacey Boswell
Post Production: Christiaan Rautenbach
Research & Script: Gabrielle Gray


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