Elaine was born in South Africa, the youngest of four children. She grew up in Johannesburg and in the African bush which she loves.
In her late teens, along with a cohort of like-minded filmmakers, Elaine began to document Black resistance to Apartheid in overtly political documentary films like Forward to a People’s Republic and The Sun Will Rise. The latter is a series of interviews with mothers whose sons were on death row for political offences. She graduated from the London Film School and returned to South Africa, and its worsening political climate, to make the films Re Tla Bona and Sharpeville Spirit.
Elaine entered the master’s program in writing and directing fiction films at the National Film and Television School in England. Her feature-length graduation film On The Wire won the British Film Institute’s Sutherland Trophy for most original and imaginative first film for 1990. On The Wire is the story of the tragic marriage between a South African Defense Force reconnaissance battalion commander and his rural wife. We learn through their relationship, and particularly his sexuality, what damage the war exacted on both perpetrators and victims.
Elaine’s first film after graduation, Friends, explores the personal stories inside the political epic of South Africa’s journey to democracy. It was selected by the Cannes Film Festival to be part of its coveted Official Competition and was commended by the Mention Speciale – Prix de Camera D’Or in that year.
Her next film, Kin, set in the desert of Northern Namibia, dramatises the unfolding fate of the desert elephant and its complicated community of protectors. Kin was distributed worldwide to critical acclaim.
Elaine’s first novel, Rhumba, tells the story of Flambeau, a young Congolese boy, looking for his mother in London’s immigrant underworld.
She wrote The Savage Hour, a novel about a farming family in South Africa and its relationship with land, loyalty, and loss.
The Love Factory, her most recent book, is about love and desire as experienced, imagined, and written about by a group of neighbourhood women and their gay male friends living in the cultural melting pot that is London.
Elaine lives with her family in Little Venice, London. She sits on the chapter for screenwriting at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and is a member of the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain.
The Savage Hour – Shortlisted for the Sunday Times fiction prize in South Africa.
Rhumba – Shortlisted for the Anobii first book award.
Friends – Official Selection, Cannes Competition, 1993. Special Mention, Camera d’Or. M-Net Film Awards, South Africa, 1994 – Best Director, Best Writer.
On the Wire – British Film Institute Sutherland Trophy, for best first film.
Palesa – short film. National Film and Television School, Awarded Golden Dragon, Krakow Film Festival.