Taking Stock is a documentary which explores the conflicted connections between business and family, community, and country. The film will follow my father, Clive Stillerman, a shopkeeper-philosopher from South Africa, and his complicated relationships with his relatives, employees, customers and friends, as seen through the lens of his family business, Benoni Discount Stores.
We're making a film about family business. My father is a shopkeeper, and my immigrant grandfather was a shopkeeper, and as far back as our village in Poland, my family has been in business. The present incarnation is in South Africa, and is about to turn 65 years old.
My father has been there since he was seventeen, and now at 58, he has built his own small, three-store empire. The shop stocks home-wares, everything you need for your kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, from pots and pans to curtains, brooms and blankets. He once loved it, and now, I think, he hates it. He calls it his “Empire of Dirt”, after the Johnny Cash song, and he half-jokingly says he’s waiting for it to die with him. For 35 years the business has been with him through marriages, children, a divorce, family feuds, social change, deaths, several recessions, and the rise and fall of Apartheid. I believe that his life in business has had a profound impact on his life outside the business. I also believe that his business has had a much wider influence on the lives of his employees and family, than he realizes.
Now, my father is talking about trying to reinvigorate the business, even as his issues with guilt and depression loom. This film will document a complete month in the business, where I hope to learn what makes him tick, and be with him as he takes stock of his business and life, while examining his relationships with those around him, at work and at home.
Ben Stillerman - Director