2018 Whispering Truth to Power; documentary
2022 African Moot; documentary
Former lawyer turned filmmaker, her first feature-length documentary Whispering Truth to Power (2018), about the last year in office of South Africa’s first female Public Protector, opened several film festivals, and won multiple international awards (HOT DOCS, FESPACO, and the Luxor African Film Festival, among others).
Shameela has directed several programs for local and international television stations and civil society organizations and has also published widely on law and social justice in journals, newspapers and book chapters. She was the first in-resident film activist at the Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education in Cape Town (2019) and served on several documentary film juries over recent years.
African Moot is her second feature length documentary which follows four passionate law student teams from different parts of Africa as they compete in the largest human rights mock court competition on the continent.
As a filmmaker I was drawn to making a film about this particular moot, the All Africa, because it is so much more than a competition. Over the last 30 years it has grown into an important pan-African tradition, where each year law students, human rights academics and practitioners gather in a different African country to focus attention on urgent contemporary matters towards cooperative action. What appeals to me is the idea of young people coming together from across the continent in a manner that continues ideals that might not be regarded in some quarters as being that vogue in current times.
To begin with, we came up with a few guiding principles for casting our characters. One was “geographical variety” — to mirror the fact that people were coming from different regions of the continent to compete. Second, we hoped to find characters with at least some form of a personal relationship to the (refugee and LGBQTI) issues raised in the moot. Third, we felt the film should ideally have a set of characters who were diverse in style, character and personal tone. And we also thought that it might be useful to focus on characters who came from countries where refugee and migration issues were under the spotlight. Finally, and importantly, we hoped to follow the journey of potential winners – which of course was difficult as winners are unpredictable from year to year.
At this point in the world, the global human rights system itself is under severe strain for having failed too many people, for being used as a tool of warfare. For some it is simply not in vogue, and is simply viewed as another cog in the wheel of liberal capitalism, that claims the moral high ground without delivering real justice. There is a lot of urgent work that needs to be done to reinvigorate the systems if it is to remain relevant and deliver on its promises. That said, after spending time with students at the competition I feel positive and hopeful.