Even though you have never put paddle in the water, it is hard not to get swept up by the wonderful story told in Confluence because it takes the story of the relationship between two South African canoe stars far “beyond the river”.
As the dust jacket says, this is “the true story behind the movie” as written by Piers Cruickshanks, the Johannesburg English teacher who – with rookie Siseko Ntondini from the wrong side of the tracks – made a winning team in the 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon, the biggest paddling event on the African continent.
It also reveals how hard it is to get a decent film made. However, with South Africa in desperate need of uplifting stories, both Cruickshanks and Ntondini wanted it to be told – and thanks to a weird quirk of fate that involves Trevor Noah’s success, it did indeed make the big screen.
If you have ever wondered after watching a movie “based on” or “inspired by” true events how much of the film actually was real, then this book will answer your questions.
Cruickshanks prefaces many of the chapters with a description of the filming, then gives his perspective on what actually happened.
For example, the scene where “Steve” does not understand why his friend “Duma” fears a small dog, may differ in the details between film and real life, but both reflect the lived experiences of many white and black people in this country.
This is part of what gives Confluence its heart: it rings true to what we see around us.
It also shows how friendship and grit make a winning combination.
Not 100% true, however, as who would pay to watch a movie with a “boring” regular guy one of the two heroes?
Hence the filmmakers turn the Cruickshanks character of Steve into someone “pretty horrible”.
On the other hand, by the time you have finished the final page of Confluence you’ll notice the gap between the movie and true life.
The real “Steve” sounds like an incredibly humble and decent human being – oh, and his English pupils should be proud of his writing abilities too, as this is a really enjoyable book! – Gillian McAinsh