Directors Bio


Shelley Barry: Director and Founder of twospinningwheels productions

Shelley was awarded a full scholarship from the Ford Foundation to study towards her Master of Fine Arts in Film in the United States and graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia in 2006. Her films span across genres and are largely experimental in style. She often shoots her own films, exploring the aesthetics of cinematography from the perspective of a wheelchair user. Screenings of her work have been held at major festivals and events around the world and been acquired by television, including MTV, DUTV and WYBE in the U.S and SABC and etv in South Africa. New York University is one of the international libraries who have purchased her work.

Awards include an Audre Lorde award for media, Distinguished Graduate Student Award from the Pennsylvania Association of Graduate schools and Best film awards at international festivals in NYC, Canada, Moscow, San Francisco, Philadelphia and New Jersey for her first film, an experimental documentary titled “Whole- A Trinity of Being”

The work-in-progress version of her thesis film, “Where we planted trees” was awarded “Best Documentary” at the Diamond Screen film festival in Philadelphia and selected for the Encounters South African International Film Festival in 2011.

Her film “Inclinations” executive produced by Cheryl Dunye was acquired by MTV and made the top ten best click list on their online site.

Born and raised in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, Shelley completed graduate studies in English and Drama at the University of Cape Town and University of the Western Cape. She has worked extensively as a disability rights activist, following a shooting in the Cape taxi wars of 1996 that resulted in her being a wheelchair user. She has held positions as the Media Manager in the Office on the Status of Disabled Persons in the Presidency and as the National Parliamentary Policy Co-ordinator for Disabled People South Africa. During this time she co-ordinated Nelson Mandela’s guard of honour for his State of Nation address in 1997.

In the area of visual media, she completed short video courses with acclaimed filmmaker Mira Nair and worked in television as the Program Compliance Advisor for South Africa’s first independent television station, She was also based as an intern for a brief period with the BBC’s Disability Production Unit in London. Shelley has had positions as Chief Examiner of the South African Film and Publications Board and also served on the board of Mediaworks, a community media organization and she currently serves on the board of Children and Broadcasting Foundation for Africa. She is associated with Gun Free South Africa and addressed the United Nations in 2006, giving her testimony and calling for an end to gun violence, during the UN review on small arms.

She was a Carnegie scholar in residence at the University of the Witwatersrand where she was based as a filmmaker from 2007-2008. During this period she made new films and taught experimental cinema and short fiction production.

Shelley developed the Programming department at Cape Town TV (CTV) – a community tv station advocating human rights and social justice where she was based as Programme Manager from July 2008-January 2010. During this time she also ran training workshops in filmmaking, particularly for those who have not had an opportunity to tell their stories. She most recently facilitated filmmaking at The Saartjie Baartman Centre for abused women and children and with 17 transgendered people from 6 African countries.

In 2010, Shelley was hosted at The New York African Film Festival where her experimental films screened at The New Museum as part of a program on new directions in African cinema.

In 2011 she made the Mail and Guardians top 100 outstanding SA women’s listing and was featured in three documentaries on powerful South African women aired on SA broadcasters SABC and etv.

Shelley is currently the founder and director of twospinningwheels productions – a production company that aims to explore new languages in cinema and marginalized voices having access to the craft of filmmaking. Her offices are based in Nelson Mandela Bay and in Cape Town. She is currently the filmmaker in residence in the Women and Gender Studies Department at the University of the Western Cape where she is exploring the possibility of establishing an interdepartmental film unit for the University.

In 2013 her production company completed a series of video profiles on South African freedom fighters for the City of Cape Town’s mayoral event.

Shelley’s poetry has been published in the following anthologies Ink@Boiling Point: An anthology of black women’s writing from the southern tip of Africa. (2001)Lovely beyond any singing Anthology of South African landscape writing (published in SA in 2006 by Double Storey)

We are Anthology of South African poetry (published by Penguin) 2009

Tilling the Hard Soil Poetry, Prose and Arts by South African writers with disabilities UKZN press 2010

“The Travelling Poet”, the first anthology of her poetry launched in August 2011 along with a multi-media projection installation that will travel the world, as a pilot project of video anthologies of poets that she conceptualised.

Shelley is on the board of Street Stories.

Samples of her films and poetry can be viewed online:

Shelley can be reached on

Watch the following documentary on Shelley and her work

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