Jason Staggie uncovers his family's ties with the notorious Hard Livings gang
For many in the Mother City, the surname Staggie is synonymous with two of Cape Town's once most-feared gangsters.
Twin brothers Rashied and Rashaad Staggie were the former leaders of the notorious Hard Livings gang.
Their nephew, Jason Staggie, stayed away from the crime world. He became an author and filmmaker instead. In his latest project titled _Hard Livings, _Jason explores how his family got involved in gangsterism.
The Staggie name was first brought into the spotlight when Rashaad Staggie was lynched by vigilante group PAGAD in Salt River in 1996. Jason was only 12 at the time. Rashied Staggie met his end in December 2019 when he was shot and killed in his car, outside his home.
For Jason, this project was more than just a documentary. It was a way to find answers to questions he had about his family and why they chose gang life.
There were so many gaps in my knowledge about my family's life that need to be filled. That needed for me to understand their choices because I really didn’t for a very long time.Jason Staggie, filmmaker
One tries to be as objective as possible regarding the actual story, but as you learn more things and the puzzle comes together, it makes sense for to me tell this story.Jason Staggie, filmmaker
Hard Livings follows the life of Jason's uncles and his father Solomon who was also in prison for murder.
It tells their story from when they were kids, living in the time fo the Group Areas Act, getting involved in petty crimes, and how they eventually escalated to gangsterism and prison.
When I started making the film, I was definitely looking reasons, and I wanted find reasons beyond the usual family issues or poverty. Those are the normal reasons as to why people turn to crime and some would say those are valid reasonsJason Staggie, filmmaker
In the end, what I got out of it was that we all have a choice. And that is very difficult for me to say because not all of us are put into that particular situation. But there is still a way out and there is still a way to find peace with yourself, even if you were stuck in those situationsJason Staggie, filmmaker
Despite being part of an infamous family, Jason says he was never asked to be involved in the gang. He attributes this to his parents separating their family from the gang and his mother's emphasis on the importance of education.
It's a misconception that gangsters want their families to be part of the business, he adds.
My mother is a teacher in Lavender Hill. What she did was she was very clear about education and trying to get us into schools and into university. She knew that was the way to get us to think differently perhaps and to rid ourselves of the stigmaJason Staggie, filmmaker
It’s maybe a misunderstanding that people think gangsters want their children to follow them. The way I see it having spoken to many people, they feel like they are carrying a cross, trying to make money for the family. But they really don’t want their own children to be impacted by it or to follow themJason Staggie, filmmaker
Jason started making this film in 2011. Because of his name and his family, he had easier access to gangsters but admits that funding the project was a challenge. He worked on it on and off over the years as money came in.
He also had to re-evaluate the script as time went on. This was because the nature of the interviews did not always go as expected.
I had access to my father, and to my uncle when he came out of prison. It was fine, given that my name can open some doors, even though it closes a lot of other onesJason Staggie, filmmaker
The gangland laws meant that some people wouldn’t speak openly or they would speak then say you can’t use that - this was something I had to take into consideration as we moved on. In the end, I just shot the film that I saw.Jason Staggie, filmmaker
The documentary has been completed, but Covid-19 has impacted its distribution.
Jason hopes that it will be screened at festivals and go as far as possible, but most importantly, he wants people in Cape Town, especially in the townships to see it, as it reflects their realities.
And now that the film is complete, Jason is ready to move on to other projects.
I started off trying to gain some form of catharsis from making it and it dragged on for a very long time, so I’m moving on to different things.Jason Staggie, filmmaker
Listen to the full audio below:
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