After many months of work done behind the scenes, even before the operation itself took place, Philani Twala was finally able to enjoy his very first cinema experience today, 26th May 2016, with his new eyes. The #OpenEyes campaign kicked off a few weeks back, where people were welcome to suggest and vote for the movie he would get to see first.

#OpenEyes – Philani’s Journey: Video 2

SK’s social media platforms were inundated with movie suggestions, which became a task in itself to sift through to reveal a clear winner. The public has spoken, and they chose Avatar, the movie that introduced many viewers to 3D, and changed the landscape of both filming and watching movies. It still holds the record as the highest grossing film of all time. Having previously watched it three times at the theatres, watching it again on SK’s revamped digital projectors made it all the more impressive.


With his birthday also having happened this week, SK were generous enough to provide Philani with a Sony PS4 along with a few games.

The team behind the success of #OpenEyes deserve to be thanked: from the initial search for a worthy candidate for the surgery, to the opthalmologist, Dr Akiel Asvatthe, and other doctors and medical staff, SK and Primedia, and everyone else involved in putting this together. And to Philani himself, we hope for everything of the best in your future ventures and new lease on life. We’d also like to highlight the contributions for all those who’ve donated the R2.50 when booking online at SK, and we urge South Africans to continue to be generous with such causes.

Press Release:

South Africa has voted, and Philani has his first big-screen cinema experience

#OpenEyes campaign got people talking, touched hearts

The question: if you were given the gift of sight, what is the first movie you would choose to watch on the big screen?

South Africa has voted, and the results are in. At the end of the inaugural #OpenEyes campaign, the most popular movie choice for Philani Twala, from Katlehong on the East Rand, to watch as his first big-screen cinema experience is… Avatar! Having been blind for the past ten years, following a degenerative eye disease, Philani has recently undergone a double corneal transplant to restore his sight.

[pullquote]This evening (Thursday, 26 May), Philani watched his first film at Ster-Kinekor Eastgate with his family and friends, and the partners involved in #OpenEyes. In his words: “Avatar was amazing. I felt like I was inside the movie, acting in the movie too.”[/pullquote]

This evening (Thursday, 26 May), Philani watched his first film at Ster-Kinekor Eastgate with his family and friends, and the partners involved in #OpenEyes. In his words: “Avatar was amazing. I felt like I was inside the movie, acting in the movie too.”

Ster-Kinekor and its flagship CSI programme, Vision Mission, launched #OpenEyes at the beginning of May. Using multiple advertising and social media platforms, they reached out to all South Africans to get involved and lend their voices to the campaign, by suggesting what movie Philani should watch as his first ‘Great Moment’ with Ster-Kinekor.

“The response from the public was simply amazing,” says Bradley Knowles, General Manager: Marketing of Ster-Kinekor Theatres. “Philani’s story touched hearts all around the country as South Africans reached for their tissues and embraced the campaign, posting their suggestions on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

“It proved to be quite a task to scroll through all the posting and mark down the top five suggestions. While movies such as Star Wars and Fast & Furious 7 were popular choices, the clear winner was Avatar – and we can understand why.”

This fantasy science fiction film, set in the lush alien world of Pandora, is visually appealing through its fantastic use of colour – Philani loved the ‘purple, green, yellow, every colour there…’, and he could identify with the pain and suffering that paralysed marine, Jake Sully, was experiencing. “I have passed through the pain, and now I’m focusing on the future,” says Philani.

Affording Philani the opportunity to undergo this life-changing operation was made possible through the generosity, kindness and expertise of various people and organisations, the most important of whom are Ster-Kinekor customers who make a conscious decision to donate to Vision Mission each time they book a movie ticket online or at one of the self-service terminals in the cinema foyers.

“It is impossible to thank the countless people who have given of their time and expertise to ensure the success of this operation. However, special thanks must go to Dr Akiel Asvat, the opthalmologist who performed Philani’s second corneal transplant on a pro bono basis,” comments Knowles.

For the past ten years, Vision Mission has been responsible for giving the gift of clear sight to thousands of underprivileged school children across the country, through screenings, eye tests and the donation of thousands of pairs of spectacles. During this time, the CSI project also assisted with two previous corneal transplants. Through #OpenEyes, it has now played a significant role in the double corneal transplant operation on 20-year-old Philani.

The #OpenEyes campaign was launched to highlight and raise awareness for Vision Mission’s new focus – the plight of thousands of needy South Africans who require a corneal transplant, but who do not have the financial means. It is hoped that Philani’s uplifting and inspiring story, and the life-changing gift of sight that he has been given, is the first of many such stories that Ster-Kinekor will tell in the future.

“Our promise to our customers is a ‘great moment at its greatest’. From his reaction to the movie, this has certainly proved true for Philani, and we look forward to sharing many more ‘great moments’ with him.

“Our plea to all our cinema goers is to ‘opt in’ during the booking process, to make a contribution to the Ster-Kinekor Vision Mission initiative. Giving someone the precious gift of sight – something most of us take for granted, but a life-changing event for someone like Philani – is as simple as a donation from just R2.50,” concludes Knowles.

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