Dressing the Princess

Cape Town, South Africa | Film Short

Documentary, Nature

Carter Kirilenko

1 Campaigns | Western Cape, South Africa

Green Light

This campaign raised C$10,815 for post-production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

29 supporters | followers

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Cape Town is experiencing a higher rate of species extinction than any city on Earth. Dressing the Princess follows the journey of Denisha and Alex as they fight to restore their city through restoring the dignity of marginalized communities by reconnecting them to their land.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

Dressing the Princess is the pilot for a docu-series called "Protectors", which showcases underrepresented conservationists who are dedicated to protecting or restoring ecosystems throughout Africa. We co-produce films with communities to attract awareness and funding to their conservation efforts.

The Story

About The Film

“Dressing the Princess” follows the journey of Denisha and Alex, two young urban conservationists, as they fight to restore a culturally significant wetland in South Africa’s most notorious neighbourhood. 


During Apartheid rule in South Africa, there was an unequal distribution of natural spaces between "white and non-white communities" in urban areas. In Cape Town, over 150,000 people of colour were forcibly removed from their homes along lush natural areas and relocated to informal settlements along the Cape Flats. While most of the natural green space in Cape Town was designated as white-only areas, a small wetland called “Princess Vlei'' was assigned to people of colour in the Cape Flats.

Amidst the trauma from ongoing discrimination, Princess Vlei became a safe haven for the surrounding community who would gather to fish, swim, and carry out traditional ceremonies. At the end of Apartheid era, the Vlei was abandoned by the government and became a dumping ground fraught with crime and gangsterism. Eventually, as conditions in the Vlei worsened, the city attempted to sell the land to build a shopping centre. This was the spark that ignited a once fragmented community to come together to fight back against the development and restore Princess Vlei into a biodiversity hotspot and cultural heritage site. 

The Story

A birds eye view of South Africa’s Cape Flats reveals glaring social and environmental inequality. Miles of informal settlements known as ‘townships’ are tightly packed together inhabited predominantly by people of colour. The townships are characterized by high levels of crime, gang violence and poverty. While the city Cape Town is home to some of the most stunning natural landscapes in South Africa - access to these areas tend to be a privilege for the wealthy minority. Many young people growing up in the townships of the Cape Flats areas are disconnected from the natural world and in turn, their own cultural roots. 

Photo by: J. Miller/Unequal Scenes

However, on the southern edge of the Cape Flats, a new movement of custodianship is taking place at Princess Vlei, a once neglected wasteland that is undergoing a remarkable ecological transformation.

Princess Vlei derives its name from an indigenous Khoi princess who was attacked and killed in the mountains by invading European sailors. Her tears flowed down the mountain to fill up the Vlei. Generations later, the legend of the Princess represents the dignity of all people who were brutally abused and dispossessed of their culture. Today, Denisha Anand and Alex Lansdowne synonymously fight to restore this dignity by helping people from the nearby townships rebuild their connection to the land by restoring Princess Vlei. 

Denisha is an intersectional environmental activist and educator, who has mobilized a small community of young Eco-Guardians from the nearby townships to restore Princess Vlei through the removal of alien species and planting thousands of indigenous fynbos. 

Meanwhile, Alex, a self-taught Terrestial Ecological Restoration & Conservationist, educates youth on the process of ecological restoration at Princess Vlei, while also fighting to restore the biodiversity of dozens of natural sites across the city.

“Dressing the Princess' is a story that reveals how ecological justice cannot be attained without redressing the social injustices that are still pervasive throughout our society. 

Why is this story important?

Cape Town is losing biodiversity faster than any other city on Earth. Conservation efforts are needed across the city in order to help restore biodiversity before it’s too late. However, conservation throughout the city and many regions of the world has been dominated by colonial ways of thinking, involving the separation of humans and nature, where communities are removed from their land and excluded from decision-making. Considering that local and indigenous communities protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity, it is imperative that the new model of conservation is centred around social justice and co-existence between communities and nature.

In Princess Vlei, Denisha and Alex are breaking barriers for community members to enable them to be part of the conservation story. "Dressing the Princess" shares a model of successful community conservation centred around social justice that can be adopted and replicated throughout the world.


  1. This film will be screened at festivals, online and at political climate events such as COP27 in order to help empower and equip climate leaders to support local community driven restoration efforts.
  2. "Dressing the Princess" will also be used as a tool to help mobilize more young “citizen scientists” from the Cape Flats to participate in the community restoration of Princess Vlei. 

Creative Approach 

“Dressing the Princess” follows an authentic character-driven stylistic approach with a blend of participatory and cinema verite.

Interviews with members of the community are conducted in a nearby community centre to gather a diverse perspective on the cultural and spiritual value of Princess Vlei. Animation and archival footage is leveraged to demonstrate the history of the area.


Special thanks to Kelvin Cochrane for starting this valuable restoration work at Princess Vlei. Credit to the name "Dressing the Princess" goes to Kelvin Cochrane.

But wait...there’s more! 

ReWild Africa is launching a multi-part series called "Protectors", which shares the stories of underrepresented conservationists who are on the front lines of protecting and restoring ecosystems throughout Africa. 

"Protectors" creates a space to facilitate collaborative storytelling between filmmakers and underrepresented voices in the environmental movement. 

In collaboration with organisations such as explorer.land, we offer a platform that allows climate champions to submit stories about their local restoration or conservation efforts. 

Our team selects stories with the highest potential impact and pitches them to our partners for funding. Once funding is secured, we collaborate with the climate champions to co-create a powerful short film and release it to a global audience.

What sets us apart?  

Our competitive advantage lies within our model of filmmaking. 

Through bringing the voices of communities into the creative process, we ensure each film creates impact beyond the box office. 

Inclusion Statement

"Dressing the Princess" will feature diverse perspectives from the community surrounding Princess Vlei, especially those whose experiences and voices are often underrepresented. This story follows the journey of two young people of colour, and, in addition, the production team and film crew reflects gender parity and diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Next Steps 

We have already secured funding for the development and production of this film and are seeking your support to raise $12,000 for post-production.

Funds will be used for the following stages of post-production:

Additional funds raised will be used to further develop the "Protectors" series to bring you more stories of community-led restoration efforts across Africa.

Thank you!


Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Sound-related post-production costs

Costs C$2,988

This includes the costs associated with sound design and mix, as well as composition and score.


Costs C$3,192

This will cover our editing costs and help us to maintain the right mood and tone.

Pitching for distribution

Costs C$864

We will pitch "Dressing the Princess" to distributors at the Sundance marketplace event.


Costs C$588

To market "Dressing the Princess" and "Protectors" effectively, we need professional marketing.


Costs C$2,328

Hand-drawn charcoal animations are used to visualise the indigenous legend of the Khoi Princess.


Costs C$564

A great colourist really brings the footage to life.

Archival footage

Costs C$1,332

Apartheid-era footage is used to reveal the history of segregation in the Cape Flats.


Costs C$144

We've got to transcribe that footage!

Cash Pledge

Costs C$0

About This Team


Carter Kirilenko is a Canadian Film Director and Producer, whose work focuses on sharing stories of human resilience in the face of the climate crisis. His films have been screened at international venues such as COP26 and have been awarded at multiple festivals across North America, including "Best International Film" at Oregon Documentary Film Festival and People’s Choice Award at VIMFF. 


Sam Chevallier is a Climate Leader, Ecologist, and founder of ReWild Africa, an experienced film production based company based in Cape town. He holds an honours in sustainable development and a masters in Ecological Design from Schumacher college. 


Denisha Anand is a mother, researcher, intersectional environmentalist, and current restoration project manager at Princess Vlei. She is a progressive environmental educator and advocate for restoration and rehabilitation of neglected biodiversity areas, especially those associated with BIPOC. She is completing a Masters Degree in environmental humanities, with a focus on intergenerational plant-human practice and intimacies. She was a speaker at TEDxCapeTown where she emphasised how custodianship allows us to reclaim natural and cultural heritage through simple acts of care. 


Alex Lansdowne is a Councillor at the City of Cape town and a self-taught Ethnobotanist who is overseeing the Princess Veli Forum’s restoration project. He considers the vlei to have high restoration potential and his work has set an example for urban community conservation in South Africa. His efforts have resulted in the Princess vlei returning to the abundant and biodiverse landscape it once was.

Research Lead

Trishala Naidu is a biologist, researcher, and wildlife television presenter whose mission is to help people grow empathy for the natural world through science, education, and storytelling. She is best known for her role on the Wildearth TV channel, and has hosted many wildlife shows for local and international platforms. 


Justin Woods has a keen interest in documenting people from different backgrounds and different parts of the world. He has conducted over 500 interviews and created over 100 short films. His key strength is bringing empathy and emotion into film, to connect viewers to a story.


Alessandra Squarzon is a passionate, solutions-driven, Italian filmmaker based in Cape Town, who has embraced film as a tool to inspire positive change. Her studies have focused on visual Arts, video-journalism, and film production. Her mission is to tell a story in the most genuine way, and she employs endless empathy to do so. In the editing suite, Alessandra applies careful consideration to the narrative and visual treatment of each film. Her aim is to inspire and motivate the viewer to take action.

The Community

The community around Princess Vlei is a diverse mix of race, relgion and culture. The community regularly comes together to assist in the restoration projects hosted by the Princess Vlei forum. The chatting, smiles, and laughter is non-stop, and a quick coffee together after their efforts solidifies their bonds and shared purpose. The restoration project has become a means to reconnect with each other, and importantly, to break down barriers for young people to access the natural world.

Current Team