Bomb Commercials Signs Director Justice
What Director Justice lacks in ego he makes up for in self-awareness, compassion and a complex creative vulnerability that leads to an incredibly honest body of work. He understands, and more importantly respects, Africa and sees the beauty in its people. Justice has now joined forces with Bomb Commercials to create even more powerful work that is rooted and driven by one central idea; telling stories for the people, by the people. We caught up with this power-house to find out what keeps pulling him back to the lens.
Mesmerised by the daily beauty and charm of the people around him, Justice’s love of the honest African narrative started as a child growing up in Soweto. While grafting for 7 years in the advertising industry, including working as an Art Director at Ogilvy Joburg, Justice and his two brothers launched a photography collective focused on showcasing uniquely African stories by Africans entitled ‘I See a Different You’. He then emerged (mostly) unscathed from advertising and pursued a career in directing. Justice now spends most of his time behind the film lens, but he is still equally as mesmerised by his country’s people.
iDidTht: Congrats on the move to Bomb! Drinks on you later, but first tell us; what attracted you to them?
Justice: When I grew up in Soweto The Bomb Shelter created a TV series called Yizo Yizo. It was groundbreaking and in a lot of ways that series inspired my approach to authenticity in telling the stories I want to tell. Yizo Yizo was such an honest reflection of the life I was living and exactly how I saw the people around me and that’s what attracted me to Bomb initially. I’m excited about the next chapter where I get to tell more of the bigger and prouder stories that I’m interested in.
iDidTht: In your first week at Bomb you already pitched on three massive boards. What kind of work are you passionate about and what touches you on your studio?
Justice: As directors, we have the potential to correct some of the wrongs in our country because we can speak to a whole spectrum of South Africans. I don’t take that opportunity lightly. Generally, my positioning is that I want to tell authentic stories but I want to give real people the opportunity to tell their own stories. In at least 90% of my ads I didn’t cast actors, but rather real people.
I don’t want to sell my soul. I want to do something that speaks to my heart and that speaks to the people. That’s what’s important. So whatever it takes, I’ll do.
iDidTht: What stories aren’t being told authentically?
Justice: I think the portrayal of our black people in South Africa is not accurate. I don’t think all of it is inclusive of the greater majority. That’s why when I do my work I don’t like to use actors.
iDidTht: You mostly do street castings, surely that’s a bit intimidating? Walking up to strangers asking to film them?
Justice: Haha, yes it can be a bit like asking someone on a date. But I’m a guy from Soweto who can speak all 11 official languages and I like to think that I’m quite a mindful person, so I’m able to really engage with people. And if you look in the right spaces you can find people that are a much stronger representation of our country than what we are currently seeing in ads. And you’ll be surprised how many people out there want to be famous.
iDidTht: Yeah, we’re also still waiting for our Charlize Theron moment! But back up there Batman, you speak all 11 official languages?
Justice: Ha! Yes. I’m Venda and because of tribalism or other issues in our country, I had to learn all the other languages because very few people can speak my language. I picked up English and Afrikaans a bit later in life. For most of my life, I never engaged with white people, because it was hard to express myself, so while I was working at FCB I had to learn English by reading children’s books with my brother…and I guess I’m still learning.
Justice Speaks South Africa’s Language
It’s not often you meet a director who genuinely and selflessly wants to create work that can lead to change in the country. His commercials bring a level of sensitivity, understanding and relatability, which is already so prevalent in his photography. There is a beauty and dignity there without having to rely on glossy smoke and mirrors. His much-anticipated first solo photographic exhibition ‘Through their Eyes’, which recently took place at the Daville Baillie Gallery in Joburg, is a rich and emotional introduction to real African people, ultimately creating a beautiful and authentic narrative.
‘The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.’
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Justice manages to delicately portray the diversity and complexity of the South African people with maturity and while his photography might have given him a voice, commercials are giving him a loudspeaker. Here are some of iDidTht’s top picks from the Justice reel.
SA Tourism ‘It’s your Country’
Guinness ‘Taxi Driver’
WarChild ‘Rofhiwa Maemu’
BAT ‘Keep It 100’
*Co-directed by Justice
Justice: It’s so important for me to make work that speaks directly to the people and being able to change perceptions. The commercial I did with SA Tourism was so important to me because it was about reaffirming to black South Africans that it’s your country and you can travel it the way you want to. You can own it. A personal highlight for me is being able to make work that touches people every day.
Real Directors Cry
iDidTht: So where to from here? Like if we said you have R10 million to tell a story that will change people’s lives, what would that story be for you?
Justice: It’s a story about masculinity. It’s inspired a lot by my own life. I grew up in a place where I was not allowed to be sensitive. I was not allowed to be weak. I was not allowed to cry. I was not allowed to show my emotions. I have an interest in telling that story, because as men and as human beings, not being allowed to engage with your emotions causes huge problems. Also, I feel that because men are not allowed to engage their emotional side women have evolved a lot more than we have. That’s the story I’d like to tell.
Are you single? That’s so refreshing to hear, especially in South Africa where the constructed notions of masculinity and what it supposedly means to be a man can be incredibly dangerous.
Justice: Yes. Imagine you were told you are not allowed to laugh if something is funny? Don’t you dare laugh! That sounds crazy. If something sad happens in a man’s life and he cries, people think he is weak. Crying empowers you and dealing with those emotions is so important. Like me, yes I might be strong, but I am also fragile and emotional.
Justice, would you be open to marrying us? It’s just not often that you get to meet a man that is so unashamedly and openly in touch with his emotions. Justice’s thought-provoking self-awareness and ability to so beautifully capture the real South African human spirit is something that we as industry-peeps and as South Africans should be celebrating. And that dear Reader, is just one of the many reasons why Justice is a director you need to call.
Produced by the iDidTht Content Studio
Credits: Anne Hirsch (Writer) / Julie Maunder
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