Imagine if you will a hat. Discovered in a charity shop and imbued with the power to lift the collective mood of a group of friends the instant one of them put it on…and made a slide whistle noise whilst raising it. It was a power you could consistently rely on and which makes a special guest star appearance in many memories of that period during which the early foundations of Directors Notes were laid. Which perhaps explains why Ruda Santos’s charming short Jabulani – about a shopping trolley that found a home in the woods and a family to appreciate him – struck such a chord here at DN. And so, we asked Ruda to share how this endearing docufiction walk with friends down memory lane came into being.

Back in February I had the chance to pitch a 3-5min short film for Nowness. The brief was quite general in a good way, you could literally send anything on ‘arts and culture’. At the time though my good friend Juan was very ill, I couldn’t think of anything but him – and every time I thought of him I remembered those moments we spent together in the woods in Epping, in our little group, and how much I missed that time. And at one point there I realised I remembered Jabulani as a person almost, it was just so much more than a trolley to us.

There’s a massive hill when you go up in Epping, we used to bring lots of camping gear, food, drinks with us so Jabulani was used primarily as a means of transportation, helping us get up there. After we were done, we went back and left Jabulani exactly where we found him. Every other time was the same story so we sort of started relying on this trolley being there, it became part of the experience, part of our sesh.

So I wrote a treatment around the trolley and the people I saw using it. I asked my friends that knew Jabulani already if they wanted to be in it and they were all on-board and brought some great ideas along with them – it was a dreamy, unique collaborative experience, making a film with friends is truly special.

There’s a fine line when it comes to docu-fiction, you don’t want to fake it too much.

It was a 1 day shoot. We hired a mini bus and took everyone for a filmed party in Epping! That’s how we described it anyway. We shot on Arri Alexa Mini with some great Hawk V-Lite anamorphic lenses. We had a Ronin stabiliser but a lot of the shots were shot handheld.

In terms of realising the concept, there was a basic story structure planned and I had a tight shot list on me at all times but most of it was improvised. The shots on the swing, the football, hotbox in the tent and so on, all in the moment kind of thing which really helped with the overall feel of it, I think there’s a fine line when it comes to docu-fiction, you don’t want to fake it too much as it may lose its purpose, I’m glad we didn’t stick to the plan.

A few new ideas came up in the edit – the film could either be more about the people or more about the trolley. Be very stylised or more natural and raw. The initial idea had always been to observe, understand Jabulani and let things unfold by themselves. There were just so many ways the film could have gone, we tried our best to make it balanced and truthful without endorsing or being apologetic about the sesh – the focus was on the affection between those people, Jabulani included.

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