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Volkswagen partners with Major Mandisa Mfeka and Kitty Phetla to launch short films to tell their stories of defiance

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  • To launch the all-new Volkswagen T-Roc, Volkswagen South Africa has partnered with South Africa’s first black female combat pilot, Major Mandisa Mfeka and the first black ballerina to dance “The Dying Swan” in Russia, Kitty Phetla.
  • Volkswagen South Africa launches a campaign about defying expectations and dismantling stereotypes.

Johannesburg – Major Mandisa Mfeka made history when she became the first black female combat pilot in South Africa. Her story inspired many women not only in South Africa, but around the world where gender equality is still a struggle. Kitty Phetla transcended cultural barriers in becoming the first black ballerina to dance “The Dying Swan” in Russia, at a time when ballet was conservative, and transformed the industry.

To usher in the all-new Volkswagen vehicle offering, the T-Roc, Volkswagen has recognised these important milestones and has partnered with Major Mfeka and Kitty Phetla to launch short films to tell their stories of defiance, and in doing so going against all odds. Volkswagen will officially launch Major Mfeka and Kitty Phetla’s online films showcasing their stories as part of the new VW T-Roc #TheDrivetoDefy campaign. 

Like many industries, the film and communications industry was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic presented new challenges for the production team. In line with #TheDrivetoDefy concept, the films were briefed and produced during the lockdown in Johannesburg, Alexandra, Pretoria and Middleburg Airfield with the core team attending and directing shoots remotely.

Volkswagen’s T-Roc #TheDrivetoDefy campaign, which launches today (22 October 2020), tells the story of a girl curious about planes and her defiant journey to becoming South Africa’s first black female fighter pilot. People can visit the campaign’s online platform here to watch Major Mfeka’s story. 

Major Mandisa Mfeka, who also made history by being the first woman to form part of the Hawks formation display during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s inauguration in 2019, is happy to come on board and partner with the country’s leading passenger car maker to tell her inspirational story. 

“We used to claim that – ‘The Sky’s the limit’, but by being in the sky we are already defining what the limit is and limiting how far we can go. I live by the quote that ‘The sky is the baseline’. This film resonates with me so much because I got to witness how I chose to ignore the naysayers and chose to go after my goals. Every person that was part of making these films has defied someone and anyone that has ever said no to them,” says Major Mandisa Mfeka.

“The film is inspired by the many heroes and heroines who didn’t have a roadmap cleared out for them. The people who were told to ‘know their place’ and yet continue to defy and smash glass ceilings and challenge stereotypes against tremendous odds,” says Meredith Kelly, Head of Marketing at Volkswagen South Africa.

“The new T-Roc is not what people expect from Volkswagen, which is why it made sense to partner with heroines like Major Mandisa Mfeka and Kitty Phetla because their stories are all about achieving the unexpected. The films delve deep into their journeys, covering their defining moments. Becoming the first black female combat fighter pilot was not easy. Becoming the first black ballerina to dance “The Dying” Swan in a time when ballet was conservative was unheard of,” added Kelly.

“In my personal experience, life has always been self-explanatory. You are your own in this competitive, challenging world. It is how you make sense of it all and connect the puzzle. You have to constantly be in competition with yourself, you have to be a step ahead of yourself to visualise your goals, take them in, accelerate, execute, and own it. ‘Who do you think you are’, you ask… the master of my craft is who I am,” says Kitty Phetla.

The films are launched in partnership with brand and communications agency, Ogilvy Cape Town and produced and directed by Fausto Becatti of Bioscope Films. True to its core meaning #TheDrivetoDefy, four additional  films are included which were shot in partnership with four protagonists who, like Mandisa and Kitty, embody #TheDrivetoDefy attitude. The additional films were directed by Kyla Philander. The platform will house these stories of defiant individuals who were once told to know their place but chose to stand out and disrupt norms and industries.

These include:

Rasta Mpholo

Rasta disrupted the status quo by not having a conventional career path.  He worked as a security guard and has defied the odds to become an  Assistant Director of Cinematography.

Kyla Philander

Her film brings to life her continual struggle with depression and how, every day, she tries to put words to something so hard to understand. It depicts her battle against depression, anxiety and imposter syndrome in becoming a revered Film Director.

Jodi Windvogel

Challenges stereotypes through photography by giving new perspectives on women like herself and her community.

Kuda Vazhure

Having left Zimbabwe to find his place in the world and make a name for himself, Kuda now pushes the limits as a Stunt and Precision Driver.

Viewers will be able to view all #TheDrivetoDefy films on the platform by visiting – The Drive to Defy.

“These online films are a source of motivation. We believe it will drive people to discover new possibilities,” concludes Kelly. With inspiration such as these, Volkswagen hopes to encourage people to defy their odds.

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