The Depth Leadership Trust - Helene Smit


Tuesday 19th, 6pm and Thursday 21st, 6pm

4 De Beer Street, Prince Albert
For information regarding the film screenings, please contact Mariette  071 913 0861
e-mail: Hélène Smit:

No cover charge but a small donation to the Prince Albert Skills School would be welcome.




 “The world today hangs by a thin thread, and that thread is the psyche of man.” Carl Gustav Jung
“If we ignore the unconscious mind, we will never know where disasters come from.” Roderick Anderson


Eerstewater tells the story of the development of the human psyche, and introduces the idea that the human psyche compartmentalises to cope with the challenges of survival. In this process, much of our potential is locked up in our unconscious minds. We can develop that potential later in life, but only through an encounter with the unconscious mind. 

The theory covered in the film is summarised below:

The individual is formed by the psyche. It weaves the mind, heart and body together and includes both conscious and unconscious experience. Over a lifetime, the psyche reveals our full story.

Every psyche contains a limitless wellspring of the whole of human experience, a life force that drives us to survive, to love, to create, to develop and to flourish.

Our development depends on internal and external forces, on our talents, limitations, opportunities and obstacles. We are caught in a relentless struggle between the drive to survive, and the drive to fulfil our potential.

A child is helpless, dependent and completely at the mercy of a caregiver, who is also caught between survival and development.
As a consequence of our early dependence and the struggle of being human, we develop a divided psyche. To ensure survival, we hide unacceptable and unbearable experiences in various psychic compartments. The deepest of these is the unconscious.
To maintain the division of the psyche, we develop defense mechanisms that help to reduce our survival anxiety, and protect us against undesirable experiences and emotions. In this way we survive, but do not thrive.

To achieve our potential, we need to dismantle the defense mechanisms, and integrate the undesirable unconscious experiences. Psychic integration can only occur in the presence of care, within a person with an independent sense of self.

We achieve integration through the discovery and exploration of the unconscious. Attending to our internal conflicts, intuition and dreams allows healing and transformation, resulting in the manifestation of the full potential of the psyche.

Eerstewater, a full-length documentary set in in the Great Karoo, is based on the book Beneath – Exploring the Unconscious in Individuals, written by Hélène Smit and Pluto Panoussis, director of the Open Window Film School in Centurion. 
Where Beneath theorises the subject of depth psychology, Eerstewater deals practically with the functioning of the unconscious mind. Using the remote dorpie Prince Albert – at the bottom of the Swartberg Mountains – as backdrop, Eerstewater portrays how the unconscious mind is created, what impact it has on our behaviour and our personalities, and how we can build better relationships between the different parts of ourselves to survive and cope with life’s challenges. 
Through the story-telling of a few locals with particular psychological and physical difficulties, people who are marginalised in society, the viewer is taken on a journey of the unconscious minds of children and grown-ups. These are individuals who have learnt the art of survival, often having to deal with extreme practical – and therefore also psychological – challenges. It introduces how important knowledge of the unconscious mind is in the way we approach life, Smit says. “And it starts to introduce some of the key ideas of how we can engage with the unconscious. Until we engage our own unconscious mind, we will never know where disasters come from.” 
From a content point of view the film raises awareness about the more marginalised aspects of human experience, things that are not usually discussed in the mainstream. “We often all marginalise the disabilities within us, as we all have them. So Eerstewater really suggests that we embark on a process of embracing those marginalised aspects of the self and of our community.”
The characters tell their stories in their mother-tongue, Afrikaans, but the film is sub-titled in English. 
Eerstewater is set in the parched Karoo landscape and weaves together stories, music and visual symbolism, especially of nature, to delve into the depths of our humanity and potential residing in the wellspring of our unconscious minds. 
Under the guidance of expert film makers Adriaan de la Rey and Lodewyk Barkhuizen, the film was made by a mainly local crew, on location in Prince Albert and Gamkaskloof (Die Hel) in the Swartberg Mountains. “It is possible to build a whole world in the film from this little world called Prince Albert. The setting makes it possible to see the functioning of a social, political and ecosystem in its entirety,” Smit says.
The title comes from the first water-crossing in the Swartberg Pass, close to Prince Albert, and the themes of psychological drought and flow are explored through a variety of visual and musical metaphors. 
According to Trevor Steele Taylor, curator of the Grahamstown Film Festival, Eerstewater “is one of the major South African films of the last couple of years. The film has a great future. It is excellent. The camerawork, editing and the interviews are marvellous”. 
About the filmmakers:

Hélène Smit:  For the past 20 years, Hélène has lectured at various business schools, including UCT and Henley, in the areas of psychological literacy, group dynamics, change management, diversity management and facilitation. Her company, Feather Learning (Pty) Ltd, has worked with many of South Africa’s leading corporations, educational institutions, non-governmental corporations and local and national government offices. She lives in Prince Albert and runs the Depth Leadership Trust that works beneath, between and beyond for a thriving psyche, community and planet. She is the author of The Depth Facilitator’s Handbook, Depth Leadership and Beneath – Exploring the Unconscious in Individuals.

Pluto Panoussis: Pluto has been a designer, illustrator, writer, architect and the director of a number of award-winning productions. He has co-written and directed two television series, exhibited as a fine artist, with five solo exhibitions to his name. He is co-founder and art director of the social commentary cartoon strip “Skaapstad” and founder of iMPAC (Initiative for Motion Pictures within the African Continent). He is currently head of the film department at the Open Window School of Visual Communication in Centurion. 


The Depth Leadership Trust
4 De Beer Street, Prince Albert
Tel. 023 5411 114 Cell 083 789 1453
e-mail: Hélène Smit: 


A devastatingly harsh and delicate film, gentle in its execution, bold in content, embracing deep empathy, honesty; capturing pathos and the remarkable resilience of human spirit. As an extensively revealing exploration ' beneath' the hardened, dusty veneer of a conflicted Karoo dorpie, Eerstewater effectively distils the effects of complex extraneous and intrinsic forces that mould the psyche.

Narration during several thought provoking sky focused interludes relates aspects of the theoretical development of the psyche, elucidating unconscious processes that shape people's lives, thus guiding our own subconscious journey in trying to make sense of the disturbing impact of the film.

Symbolism and metaphor enrich the sensuous images and sound tapestry of music and natural noises, dominated by a dessicated yet life infused environment. Fire and heat intensify the mood, intermittently refreshed by the gathering flow of rejuvenating water, the hope that softly infiltrates the landscape and the psyche, soothing the sometimes unbearable dryness in depictions of adversity, striving towards saturation in the wellspring.

Layers of stories within stories seamlessly connect the ebb and flow of care and neglect, intent and surrender, exclusion and inclusion, and deep sadness mitigated by salvaged moments of joy, leaving enough unsaid to provoke our imaginations, enhancing our curiosity and empathy.

Many other aspects of film making are brilliantly executed. Infrequent re-enactment scenes are remarkably unobtrusive and sensitively done. Settings and camera angles especially during interviews enhance the storytellers' characters in subtle yet powerful ways. Attentive cinematography accurately describes true Karoo light and landscape. Salient, and at times coolly devastating information is tenderly extracted from the characters. The perfectly relaxed pace of the Karoo in time lingers intensely. Passion, and compassion from every frame, imbue the viewer, culminating in a very direct and heartfelt unravelling of the soul.