Township Yogi: Produced by US actor/director Blair Underwood, and SA film producers, Elle Matthews and Peter Matthews
ABOUT THE FILM
Township Yogi is a Green Shoot Films production. The documentary is filmed in KwaMashu and Inanda, KwaZulu Natal, townships riddled with crime and unemployment, and where many of the population are suffering from HIV and Aids, and where Whoonga is destroying communities and lives. Research has shown that the practice of yoga helps boost immune system activity, reduces stress, improves muscle tone, combats wasting and slows the progression of HIV/Aids. Because of controlled breathing and relaxation in yoga, it benefits TB patients, and it’s mind-body benefits assist young children in developing inner strength and self-knowledge, helping them make positive changes and decisions in their lives.
The documentary follows the setup of grassroots yoga studios in Inanda and KwaMashu, with the assistance of qualified yoga teachers from Durban.
It traces the establishment of yoga classes and the attitude/involvement of the community – in places where the majority of people have never heard of 'yoga’.
The film focusses on six people from Inanda, KwaMashu and Ntuzuma townships, who are selected to participate in yoga teacher training courses, and follows them, as they use yoga to help them transform their lives. The documentary also explores what ripple effect this has in some of the poverty-stricken, HIV, Whoonga and crime-ridden communities in which they live.
Through footage and interviews we go into the lives of the six township residents, for who – as long as they can remember - life has been heartbreakingly hard. They share their fear of Whoonga crime and violence, the effects of high unemployment on the country, and of HIV/Aids in their own lives, and in their communities. Visuals will poignantly illustrate the stark poverty of townships, overcrowded cemeteries, and the effects of HIV/Aids and unemployment as they claim lives, jobs and hope. The changes in their lives will be highlighted as they embark on a journey of learning yoga – and learning to teach yoga – and we will uncover the effects that this has on them, their families and their wider township communities.
THE PRODUCTION TEAM
Blair Underwood - Producer & Narrator
International Actor, Producer and Director Blair Underwood made his film debut at age 21 in ‘Krush Groove’ (1985) and appeared in a regular daytime role that same year on ‘One Life to Live’(1968). Two years later he appeared in the charismatic role of attorney "Jonathan Rollins" in the hit dramatic series, L.A. Law(1986). He was awarded a Golden Globe nomination during the show’s seven- year run.
Blair went on to appear in a number of prestigious TV dramas, such as ‘Murder in Mississippi’ (1990), ‘Heat Wave’ (1990) and ‘Mama Flora's Family’ (1998), based on Alex Haley's final book. Blair received NAACP Image Awards for both performances. He also top-lined as baseball legend Jackie Robinson in HBO's ‘Soul of the Game’ (1996). Blair's theater credits include "Measure for Measure" with Kevin Kline and "Love Letters", which he performed with Alfie Woodard in 2002. Blair has appeared in films such as ‘Gattaca’ (1997), ‘Deep Impact’ (1998), ‘The Wishing Tree’ (1999) and ‘Full Frontal’ (2002). In 2004, he played the role of Roger De Souza opposite Heather Locklear in NBC’s LAX. In recent years he has appeared on ‘The New Adventures of Old Christine’, ‘Dirty Sexy Money’ and ‘In Treatment’, and in NBC’s ‘The Event’. He has received tow Golden Globe Award nominations, three NAACP Image Awards and one Grammy Award.
Married since 1994 and the father of three, he is involved in numerous charitable organizations in the United States, and am ambassador for Township Yogi Project NPO in South Africa. He has won the Humanitarian Award for his work with the Los Angeles chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and has served as the spokesperson for YouthAIDS. In addition, he is involved with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Blair Underwood Clinic in Washington, DC. Blair is also a Trustee for the Robey Theatre Company in LA, a non-profit theatre group founded by Danny Glover, focusing on plays about the Black experience.
Elle Matthews - Producer & Screenwriter
Producer and Screenwriter Elle Matthews graduated at UCT (English & Psychology), was employed as a Researcher and English Lecturer at Medical University of South Africa in 1993, and worked at Garden & Home and Country Life magazines for two years, before leaving to enter the advertising industry. In 1995 Elle was employed as the Head of the PR Department at Matthews & Charter, Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency, and went on to become a Strategic Planner and Account Director, before leaving the company in 1999 to start her own production company, Tidal Wave Productions.
Elle has worked for more than fifteen years in the film and commercials industry. In 2003 she produced the Vuka award-winning, and Cannes finalist commercial, ‘Don’t Forget’, and went on to become one of the most successful producers in KwaZulu Natal, having produced hundreds of commercials for local and international clients, including Yamaha, Barclays and Unilever.
In 2006 Elle wrote and produced the award-winning international feature film, ‘Oil on Water’, which attained international distribution in both the USA with Seminal Films, and globally through Longtale LLC. The film was nominated for eleven film festival awards and won the Everglades International Film Festival ‘Best Feature’ Award.
Elle is currently the South African Producer on 'The Outside Room' and is Screenwriter and Lead Producer on the feature film ‘Zulu: Day of the Dead Moon’. She is also in script development on a number of other feature films, including ‘The Green Lady’, and ‘The Memory of Chiffon’.
She is the founder of the Township Yogi Project Non-Profit Organisation, and a Director of the PawPrint Africa Project.
Peter Matthews - Director & Producer
Peter Matthews studied Graphic Design in South Africa, and in 1986 he became founder and creative head of Matthews & Charter, Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency, which won many awards, and was rated in the top three most creative ad agencies in South Africa by FM. During this time, Peter developed a passion for story-telling and directing, and left advertising to become a film director in 1999.
Between 1999 – 2006 Peter conceptualized and directed many international and local commercials that received international award recognition – including the Cannes Bronze Winner, ‘Don’t Forget’ – a PSA focused on Alzheimers. Between 2006-2008 Peter directed his first feature film, "Oil on Water", which was released theatrically in South Africa, and went on to obtain worldwide international distribution through E1 (Koch Films) and Longtale LLC. The film was awarded Best Feature Film at the Everglades International Film Festival and obtained official nominations and selections at nine other International Festivals.
Peter is currently the Director of the feature film in development ‘Zulu: Day of the Dead Moon’, as well as a Producer on the feature film, ‘The Memory of Chiffon’.
Peter is a recognised South African artist, the Chairman of the PawPrint Africa Project, as well as a Director of the Township Yogi Project Non-Profit Organisation.
Amanda Glover Christina Aksenova Rachel Zinman Caryl Bridge
Evgeniya Rubanenko Lucia Furstenberg Sam Jones Acacia Lady
Carla Carnevale Julia Cunneen Pink Ulric Algar
Valerie Bourdot Rutfrolich Vanessa Kallmeyer Peter Haynes
Erin Tafur Lene Noergaard Levi Judy Melville
Benoit Kulesza Sylla Cousineau Tina Hagmann
Kandy Rohmann Kandy Rohmann Bianca Armbruster