Documentary review:  Grappling with ‘race’, identity and selfhood in Liminal, directed by Tiffani Joy- Bronze Standard Bank Ovation Award at The National Arts Festival, South Africa, 2021

What: Liminal – documentary– VOD at The National Arts Festival, South Africauntil August 31, 2021 Director/writer/DOP: Tiffani Joy
Direct booking link: Duration: 24 minutes Language: English Tickets: R25  

What are you? Who are you? What am I? Whch box do you tick on official forms, denoting “race”? In South Africa, there are five categories – “legal” categories – which we are used to classify “race”: Black, white, Indian and coloured. What does ‘coloured’ mean? If you don’t see yourself as fitting in with ‘coloured’, there isn’t an option of “mixed race” or “bi-racial”. If there is an “other” on the form, is that what you go for? In Tiffani Joy’s, Standard Bank Bronze Ovation Award winning film, Liminal, we see a selection of South Africans being interviewed in relation to how they view themselves in terms of the “racial” classifications in South Africa. It is a topic which is fraught with complexations. In a Democratic South Africa why must we defined according to race, poses one respondent? In another country he asserts, he would simply be Australian or American or whatever.  That is what he would prefer –skin colour not being in the picture. For others, it is important to identity as coloured and for others; “coloured” is in itself problematic as a uniform term and they prefer “mixed race” or “bi-racial”. What does ‘coloured’ mean? What about culture and language? The so-called Cape Coloured versus others of colour in South Africa? In this beautifully crafted film, Tiffani Joy evokes a sense of the intricacies of “race” which is a construct, sure, but for many it is a seminal aspect of identity and for others it is immaterial. Many dangle between spaces of identity and selfhood–ticking boxes-and at the same time not wanting to be limited by parameters. There is also the possibility that they may shift and not tix the same boxes on the next form.

Liminal is a film with no answers. This country is powered by diversity. The baseline may be currently, framed by five legal categories of “race” but the reality is how individuals ultimately express themselves and make choices. Lines are blurred. Spaces in which individuals exist may not necessarily mirror skin “colour” and parentage. How does that impact in identifying with one race or another? It may and it may not. It is an ongoing conversation; a vital conversation and has been sensitively portrayed by Tiffani Joy in Liminal. Race for some is everything and for others it is nothing. Others dangle on the threshold of liminality– grasping onto and relinquishing labels and tags. I loved watching this gentle and sensitive film. The take-home message: Respect. Do not assume anything about anyone. Take the lead from individuals as to how they wish to be identified – or not.

Liminal, directed by Tiffani Joy- Bronze Standard Bank Ovation Award at The National Arts Festival, South Africa, 2021.
Liminal – documentary  

Writer: Tiffani Joy
Producer: Tiffani Joy and Cheryl Naledi Mohale
Production manager: Cheryl Naledi Mohale
Script supervisor: Cheryl Naledi Mohale
Director: Tiffani Joy
Director of photography: Tiffani Joy
Assistant cinematographer: Amy Swart
Sound designer: Gabrielle Landers
Editor: Ruann Oosthuizen
Visual effects artist: Ruann Oosthuizen
Production designer: Bronwyn Ireland
Makeup artist: Bronwyn Ireland
DIT: Ruann Oosthuizen and Gabrielle Landers
Colourist: Tiffani Joy

Interviewees: Dr Gregory Landers; Samantha Landers; Alice Mdluli, Liam Whitcher, Leah Mari, Isabel Landers
Voice over artists: Katischka Kiara and Nicole Snell