Born on 9 March 1964 in Johannesburg, Aryan Kaganof attended Durban High School where he matriculated in 1981, winning the English Prize. In 1983 he left South Africa to avoid military conscription into the apartheid army.
Having moved to The Netherlands he worked at the Dutch Anti-Apartheid Movement (AABN) (1983 to 1986) as a researcher/activist and also at the pirate radio stations Radio 100 and Radio X (1985 to 1989), where he made radio programmes about jazz music (Rhythm-a-ning) and South African exile music and politics (Vula). It was during this period that he wrote about music and culture for various international publications, including the ANC’s cultural magazine RIXAKA (Zambia), JAZZ TIMES (Poland), ZUIDELIJK AFRIKA NIEUWS (Netherlands), and the pop culture magazine VULA (South Africa).
In 1990 he enrolled in the Netherlands Film & Television Academy (NFTVA) where he studied feature film direction, script writing, editing and production, until graduating in 1994. While still a second year student he won the Dutch Oscar equivalent for Best Feature Film (the Golden Calf) for his first feature film, KYODAI MAKES THE BIG TIME, a self-produced 16mm production shot in 14 days during the holiday between the first and second academic year. He continued to shoot feature films during each vacation. In 1996 he pioneered the use of digital video as a feature film medium with the transfer to 35mm NAAR DE KLOTE! (Wasted!). Due to the film’s commercial success in Japan he was invited to direct the first Japanese film shot via such a process, TOKYO ELEGY, in 1999.
He returned to South Africa in 1999 in order to make acquaintance with his biological father. In March 2000 a retrospective of his films was held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco where he was also Artist in Residence. In 2001 his first solo fine art exhibition was held in Cape Town at the Association For Visual Arts (AVA). His second solo show was held at the NSA Gallery in Durban in 2003 where he was also Artist in Residence. His 2002 film WESTERN 4.33 was shot in Namibia and tells the story of the German concentration camps on Shark Island off the coast of Luderitz. The film was screened at the 2004 Berlinale and won awards for Best Video Made in Africa at the 12th Milan African Film Festival; Best Documentary Made in Africa at the Reunion Africa and Islands Film Festival. Between 2002 and 2006 he published a string of novels including USELESSLY (Jacana, South Africa) and Hectisch (Podium, Netherlands).
In 2005 he shot the world’s first feature film made on a mobile phone camera, SMS SUGAR MAN. As a result of the impact that the film made in Sweden he was invited to K3 Malmo University for a 6 month stint as Visiting Professor in Film & Digital New Media (2008). He has worked as an editor with many South African film directors in the past few years, including Akin Omotoso (JESUS AND THE GIANT, which he also scripted, and MAN ON GROUND) Eran Tahor (IMAGINE) and Craig Matthew (WELCOME NELSON, a documentary about the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, screeend by eTV in 2010. His most recent features as editor were ELELWANI (directed by Ntshaveni wa Luruli) and COLD HARBOUR (directed by Carey Mckenzie).
His on-going music research project the AFRICAN NOISE FOUNDATION performed as part of the Badilisha Poetry Festival at Spier in December 2009 in an incarnation featuring Zim Ngqawana, Mantombi Matotiyana and the Kalahari Surfer. In November 2010 he collaborated with Cape Town film maker Dylan Valley on THE UPRISING OF HANGBERG, a documentary exposing human rights violations in Hout Bay by the Metro police force. A retrospective film festival of his work, AK47, organised by DOMUS has been held in Stellenbosch. A full retrospective of his short films was held in 2014 at the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival. A retrospective of his features and documentaries was held at the Italian Academy at Columbia University in March 2014.
His long form documentary about the Eoan Group Book Project, AN INCONSOLABLE MEMORY, had its world premiere during the IDFA, November 2013. His most recent documentary, NIGHT IS COMING, about the Marikana massacre, was screened and discussed at Oxford University, Sheffield Hallam University and at the Athens AvantGarde Film Festival in October 2014.
Kaganof is a Fellow at STIAS, the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study, where he was Artist In Residence for 6 months in 2012-13 during which time he made the short film STELLENBOSCHED. He will be Artist-In-Residence at STIAS again in July and August 2015, along with Athol Fugard and Zakes Mda.