Diaries of a Dissident Poet

(Dir: Shelley Barry | South Africa | 2014 | 93 min)


Friday 19 September 6.15 pm


Saturday 20 September 4.00 pm

Venue: The Labia Theatre, Orange Street, Cape Town

Tickets: R40

Diaries of a Dissident Poet tracks the life of James Matthews over a two year period. The film commences in 2012 at the District Six Museum in Cape Town, where people gather to celebrate his 83rd birthday and ends as he celebrates his 85th birthday and the re-launch of Age is a beautiful phase.

What does a man remember when he suffers from mental epilepsy? As he reflects on his life then and now, what matters, what is important to him? Through video-diary style interviews and honest self reflection, James tells us the story of his years – of how he was born in the Bo-Kaap and raised in an abusive household, to becoming a single father, to setting up the country’s first black publishing house, to the ravaging effects of alcoholism on his life and family. It tells the story of his rage against the apartheid state through his words, described as “a petrol bomb”, his time in prison and the banning of his poetry book “Cry Rage”.

James shares his own journey of freedom, which was not political. He became free when he became sober, reclaiming life and self and reconnecting with family and friends.

Honoured with a doctorate from UWC in 2013, he became Dr James Matthews, a man with a troubled and angry past, who at 85, is preparing to release a new volume of poetry and whose words are interpreted into jazz by one of our country’s top female jazz musicians, Melanie Scholtz.

He is a man who contemplates death and impermanence, especially after the passing of one his best friends and fellow artist, Peter Clarke.

Diaries of a Dissident Poet is a unique and rare, intimate slice of South African history, as told by one of our most significant poets and is a vital archive for future generations.

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