South Africa's Risk-Loving Train Surfers

A stunning short film finds out why young men in the city of Kathlehong jump on moving rail cars despite the obvious, and potentially fatal, danger.

Filmmaker Marco Casino traveled to Kathlehong to explore the South African city two decades after Apartheid. In his short film Staff Riding, (local slang for "train surfing") he interviews two young men who let off steam by jumping on moving trains.

STAFF RIDING SUB ENG from MARCO CASINO on Vimeo.

Kathlehong is an impoverished, industrial city formed in 1945 as a black settlement during Apartheid. With high unemployment, the outlook for its residents remains grim. Chabedi Thulo, one of the twenty-somethings in the short, sees train surfing as an act of self-expression.

As you would expect, electrocutions, serious injuries, amputations, and death are far from rare among people who do what Thulo does. But for him, it's a way dealing when life provides little to look forward to, telling Casino, "you want to take off the anger instead of beating someone or robbing them."

Staff Riding won first prize in the World Press Photo Multimedia Awards earlier this week. 

H/T Deadspin

About the Author