Artists seldom take up arms outside of their craft in order to affect change. But in 1956, during Nigeria’s Biafran War, author and playwright Wole Soyinka seized the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service studio at gunpoint and broadcast a demand for the cancellation of the Western Nigeria Regional Elections.
The situation is not dire enough in South Africa to warrant such antics, but Auret’s personal struggle is concerned with changing the South African film and television industry.
Auret has some military training and as a result (possibly), he has played cops, tough guys and villains in his time. He looks like a man who could set you straight if you got out of line, although his general demeanour is warm, excitable and even childlike when discussing his craft.
“I’ve always wanted to be part of a revolution, and my focus is going to be the film and television industry in this country,” Auret states.
“South African actors are ripped off, screwed and done in by producers of TV and film. You shoot a film or television series, you get paid for it and that’s it. Then it gets flighted around the continent and the rest of the world and we get nothing out of that as actors. Meanwhile, I get a percentage of whatever Elysium (Hollywood epic, starring Matt Damon) makes for the rest of my life and that is how actors survive. Why can’t we do that in South Africa?”
Work and life intersect to shape people’s views. In his latest theatre production, Hungry written and directed by Aubrey Sekhabi, Auret came across life and reality. Sekhabi had the cast begging on the street outside the State Theatre in costume as the audience walked into the theatre. Neil Blomkamp’s District 9 and Elysium deal heavily with inequality among the human race. For Auret, art and reality have connected on a grand scale to shape his views on the world.
“You would have to be an idiot and emotionally retarded as an actor if these things did not affect you,” Auret continues.
“I used to be one of those guys who never gave money to people and told them to go get a job and work with their hands. But after Hungry, my stance has changed and I sponsor three people now. People think that Neill (Blomkamp, film director) is predicting the future in his films whether its District 9 or Elysium, because this inequality is happening now. I believe that a play like Hungry can change the mindset of people. Aubrey is dealing with fiction and reality at the same time, and it is the fiction that people are scared of because the fiction is the reality.”
Auret is set to collaborate with Blomkamp again in Chappie, in which he plays another bad guy, but with a meatier role this time around that he hopes will pave the way for further work in big Hollywood productions.