National Film Festival for Talented Youth | Seattle Youth Film Festival | Student Film Festival


The Wanderer

Film of the Week


It’s Halloween week and we have an awesome short film made by our NFFTY alumni for you! Turn off the lights and start grappling in fear now.


Maria is the daughter of a South African police legend. Her modern beliefs are challenged when she is called to investigate a murder in a rural village where the killer is supposedly non-human.

The film was an official selection at NFFTY 2013 and won Audience Award  in the Edge of your seat category.

About the Director


Shaun James graduated from AFDA Johannesburg in 2011, majoring in Directing and Screenwriting. His graduation film ‘Msulwa’ screened at the Durban International Film Festival as well as the International Student Film and Video Festival held in Beijing. The following year he completed his Honours in the same field. His final year project is entitled ‘The Wanderer.’

We speak to Shaun, who tells us more about his film and the struggles he went through for it.

So Shaun, what was the greatest challenge that you faced in creating this film? 

Shaun says: 

As with most films, the greatest challenge making The Wanderer was the scripting process.  The story developed after several failed attempts to create a psychological thriller.  The original story portrayed a criminology university student cram-studying for her final year exams.  Through exhaustion, the case she studies comes to life in the university library where she must use her knowledge of the case to stay alive.  The concept appeared to lack specific relevance with regard to South African culture.  So I decided to delve into the world of beliefs and superstition within the South African community, thus shifting genre towards a supernatural thriller.  Although this change was necessary it pushed all of our deadlines back.  As a result we no longer had the time to plan and execute our pre-production, shooting, and post production accordingly.  So almost every problem that arose was due to deadline issues which ultimately developed during the story/scripting phase.

In your interpretation, did the spirit eventually posses Maria? 

Shaun says: 

The spirit most definitely leaves the village inside the body our protagonist, Maria.  We actually shot a scene where, just before she is taken away in the police car, we see her standing over her partner’s body, totally consumed by the spirit.  It was our most cinematic moment of the film yet we decided to cut it out.  We did this in order to make the audience feel unsure as to whether Maria was really possessed or not.  By making the final moments subtle it would allow for audience interpretation as well as speculation, even after the film ends.  However the final line of the film gives it away.  The traditional healer says “Now go!”  She is referring to the spirit that is now inside Maria.

Do you believe in the existence of supernatural being? Have you experienced any personally or have heard of some? 

Shaun says: 

With regards to my own beliefs, I can’t say that I have any proof or previous experience to show that spirits exist.  I do believe that they exist but will not interfere with someone unless he or she attempts to contact them.  In the traditional African culture spirits are hugely prominent.  Traditional Healers (a good version of a witch doctor) believe that our ancestors are always with us and can be called upon when in need of answers.  When doing research for the film we went to visit a traditional healer.  Upon arrival we had to take off our shoes and rub our hands in ash powder.  We then entered the hut and knelt down on front of her.  She then prayed to our ancestors and asked them to join us in the room before teaching us about her beliefs and traditions.  I can’t say that I was totally enlightened, but neither can I deny the possible presence of supernatural forces I felt in that room.  It was a unique experience.

It’s Halloween! Why don’t you recommend some of your favourite films for our readers? 

Shaun says: 

As a general rule I am more attracted to dramatic thrillers rather than horrors or slasher films.  However when getting into the mood/atmosphere of Halloween there are some films I could recommend.

> Scream, Directed by Wes Craven.  I will never forget how this film made me check around every corner in my house before being able to feel moderately comfortable.  I still have a Ghost Face mask that I use for Halloween parties!

> I recently watched The Exorcist for the first time, directed by William Friedkin.  I never thought that a 70’s film could hold up so well.  I was left in absolute shock.  I thought “how could they possibly do that forty years ago?!”  It may be quite intense, and not for the faint-hearted, but a gripping story about faith, belief, and a shocking portrayal of the supernatural world.

> Trailing back to the genre’s roots there is The Original Halloween, directed by John Carpenter.  It defined the slasher genre and has thus become a classic.  It may not hold up in the eyes of a youthful audience, but it could be an insightful viewing.

> Finally, for a younger audience wanting to go trick-or-treating, I recommend the first film that nearly scared me to death; The Haunted Mask, based on the Goosebumps book.  I have not seen it in ages so,once again, it may not hold up today but give it a try, you never know!

To find out more about Shaun and what he likes, check out his YouTube Channel.


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