The Superb Sydelle and Rowan

Solar-powered cinema for the win

While open air cinema is an old idea, solar-powered cinema is a relatively new one. Sydelle Willow Smith and Rowan Pybus are the team behind Sunshine Cinema, a mobile movie house that screens short films and documentaries in community venues such as school halls, libraries, community centers or containers, hosting workshops to collaborate on solutions to their social and environmental challenges. 

What’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not working? 

Sydelle: spending time in Nature.

Rowan: Golf

What’s the next thing you’d like to tick off your bucket list?

Sydelle: Patagonia

Rowan: Touch a leatherback turtle (not inappropriately)

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Night Owls

What are the top 10 things on your Wishlist?


10 - more time to draw.

9 - more time with my family.

8 - all GMO food to be labelled appropriately.

7 - Home Solar Tax Incentives.

6 - Tree Planting and monthly monitoring to be mandatory in schools for 5 days a year. 

5 - The end of rhino and pangolin poaching.

4 - Seeing Pearl Jam play on Clifton Beach.

3 - Produce a 15 min musical track with the Chemical Brothers.

2 - An organic off the grid farm in the bush.

1 - Religious Tolerance.


10 - seeing a Duckbilled Platypus with newborns in real life.

9 - more time to write.

8 - more time with my family.

7 - more time for hikes in nature.

6 - a room filled wall to floor with books I want to read.

5 - a day spent visiting galleries with Mary Ellen Mark and Susan Sontag.

4 - seeing The Yeah Yeah Yeahs live.

3 - visiting Borneo with my father, to see where he was born.

2 - Widespread Empathy.

1 - For a cultural of playing it forward to be celebrated starting with making all graduates complete mandatory community service.

What are you reading right now?

Sydelle: All of Elena Ferante's books.

Rowan: The manual to my new Kodak VR camera.

What’s the weirdest thing in your bag right now?

Sydelle: For some reason, I have a baby pinecone in my camera bag

Rowan: A 60-year-old golf ball.

What’s one question you would ask the president?

Sydelle: What's your take on feminism?

Rowan: When are you going to resign.

What’s the last thing you bought? Sydelle:

Sydelle: An ugly overpriced rain jacket for a shoot in Kinshasa.

Rowan: A virtual reality camera

How did you start doing what you do?

Sydelle: My dad was a darkroom printer and told me to take a photo of the clouds reflecting in the pool when I was ten.

Rowan: I got a gold star for drawing when I was six years old - shout out to Mrs. Mitchley.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs wanting to start a business?

Sydelle: Mentors are key.

Rowan: When you ask yourself why don't I just get a job, it would be easier - tell yourself how average working for someone else sounds.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Sydelle: Never forget to pack respect & humility in your camera bag. Rowan: Work on your business, not in your business and do or do not do, there is no try.

What would you do with a R100 000 investment?

Sydelle & Rowan - Drive from Cape Town to Nairobi doing free solar screenings.

Which words or phrases do you overuse?

Sydelle: hectic.

Rowan: basically.

Name the talent you’d most like to have.

Sydelle: breakdancer.

Rowan: maestro guitar player.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be

Sydelle: to be less impatient.

Rowan: my short temper.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Sydelle: Really looking myself in the mirror.

Rowan: Having the courage to constantly swim upstream.

What is your most treasured possession?

Sydelle: my passport.

Rowan: the memories of growing up in wild places all over Southern Africa.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face in doing what you do?

Sydelle: overcoming self-doubt.

Rowan: turning down the big pay cheque to do work that really matters.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Sydelle - feisty

Rowan - stubborn

Which historical figure do you identify with the most?

Sydelle  - Nina Simone

Rowan - Jesus

What is your biggest regret?

Sydelle - giving up a musical instrument

Rowan - studying graphic design instead of fine art

When and where were you happiest?

Sydelle - exploring new places in nature with my love :-)

Rowan - sunrise in the ocean and sunset in the bush

What causes you to lie?

Sydelle - not wanting to disappoint people

Rowan - pressure in public

What is your idea of complete happiness?

Sydelle - being completely present and grateful

Rowan - everyone being sincere