Behind the Lens: Johann Vorster

Hear from Vossie about his latest film, Capitaine

Johann Vorster, otherwise known as Vossie, is a filmmaker slash photographer slash director slash all-around visual storyteller based out of Johannesburg, South Africa, with a keen focus on conservation. His most recent project, Capitaine, is the story of a wilderness in northern Cameroon where, despite the depletion and development of surrounding land, the ecosystem has survived. In this place that represents a window to what Western Africa’s savannah once was, there thrives a fish so big that locals call it the ‘elephant of the river.’ Vossie journeys with a group of fishermen to this special oasis to witness an explosion of life and extraordinary creatures of the river.

Johann Vorster, AKA ‘Vossie’

 

We caught up with Vossie to get a behind-the-lens take on his film:

Q: How long have you lived in Africa?

A: I was born just south of Johannesburg, and have been living in South Africa all my life.

Q: What got you into making fly fishing films?

A: Film making is my profession, and I do it for a living. In South Africa, we are lucky enough to be surrounded by all things wild. I love fly fishing because it’s a great activity for getting outside and immersing yourself in nature. It just became an absolute pleasure combining both passions and make something fun with friends. I’m lucky enough to spend a lot of time all over Africa, working mostly on conservation based stories. African Waters is great at that, and their fly fishing destinations are incredible. After we teamed up for a short story in the Okavango Delta in Botswana a few years ago, called Dogs of War, it was a no brainer to get out there and go on another adventure. Fly fishing is so much more that just fishing, it’s an adventure of its own.

Q: What was it like filming at night among the hippo’s, crocodiles, and lions?

A: Everything is different, there is a sheer drop in temperature as soon as the sun dips down. You start hearing the nocturnal chorus, the night stars light up the sky, it really is beautiful. You are walking through this narrow-silhouetted corridor down river, surrounded by bush and tree line on either side. Sometimes the prominent Milky Way would feel like a mirror of this river corridor above you. It really was special.

We would wade through the waters at night, critters eyes reflecting back at you from your flashlight. Finding a suitable spot on a sandbank to make a fire. Everything is still and quiet, except for nature and fly lines whisking through the air. Then suddenly, you hear the call of excitement and headlamps popping on around you. Running and navigating those rocks at night, to help land the fish and capture it all on camera, was a comedic sight. We were definitely not as agile as Stuart Harley (African Waters Guide) who is mostly barefoot and can hop about with ease.

There is always that expectation of catching a very large fish at night, every strip, every retrieve, has you on the edge, because it’s so dark. Anything can happen at anytime. It was a wonderful experience for me as a film maker, to spend time with friends who knew so much about fishing, the bush, and like minded about Africa.

Filming at night was a unique experience for the film crew.

 

Q: What was the scariest thing you guys encountered during the shoot?

A: The Faro really is a wild and wonderful place. There’s a feeling that comes once you are out there in the middle of it all. I remember standing next to a deep cut by the river, watching a pod of hippos in the pool upstream. Hippos can’t swim, so they sink to the bottom, push up for air, and as they came closer, the whole pod walked on the bottom of the river bed past me. The water was crystal clear with these huge fat blobs just walking at the bottom to the next pool. It was just wonderful to see.

Xavier, as well as the African Waters guides, are extremely professional and knowledgable about the area and all the west African wildlife, so I never at all felt threatened or scared. It’s like being on a walking safari or those early morning and night drives to different beats where you see so many animals. From hyena to porcupine to hearing the lions. It is a really an incredible experience. But the scariest for me was navigating those treacherous rocks at night, with all your camera gear when some one was hooked up, hoping to not miss it.

Q: Fishing and hunting operations are often the largest financial resource for conservation efforts in developing countries. How has fishing for Nile Perch and Tiger Fish in Africa positively impacted conservation efforts where you filmed?

A: Africa has so many complicated layers when it comes to conservation, and there are many essays written by experts in the field. Personally, I think what’s important is to collaborate communities surrounding protected areas and concessions, as well as putting a value on wildlife and fishes. If people come from all over the world come to experience this small paradise for its wildlife and fisheries, there’s a value to that experience, and that goes back to conserving and protecting these areas. Creating eco-tourism and industry. There are extremely passionate people like Xavier, featured in the film, operating in the Faro, and I look forward to all the new prospects they are developing there.

Vossie (far left) along with Xavier Vannier, Stuart Harley, and Edward Truter while filming.

 

To follow more of Vossie’s adventures, check out his Vimeo, Instagram, and Facebook.