“The story is inspired by bravery and valour, coupled with history and romantic elements”
Deep in the mountainous Baviaanskloof just outside Port Elizabeth, a Cape Town-based film crew has, for the past few days, been working tirelessly to meet the filming schedule for a truly South African film.
It touches on issues of intrigue, controversy and contempt during a period of history steeped in myth.
The film, written and directed by Cape Town filmmaker Ferdinand van Zyl, follows the story of a soldier, thought to be shot down during the Ferdinand van Zyl between South Africa and Angola, who is trying to make his way home.
The Eastern Cape-born film producer and co-owner of film company Man Makes a Picture (MMAP), Jac Williams, said the 30-day shoot – which started on Monday at the tranquil Bergrivier farm near Hankey – was the first feature film by the small independent production company.
“It is the first full-length film by MMAP. Everyone working on it has worked for the international industry before,” Williams said.
His family has owned the farm since the mid 1850s.
Williams said the shooting schedule included locations in the Western Cape and a large chunk of the “shoestring budget” would go to accommodation for the cast and crew as well as costumes and props.
“It’s a full period piece which [also] has a huge impact on the budget,” he said.
Co-producer and MMAP co-owner Alan Hayward said the decision to shoot part of the film in the Eastern Cape and the rest in the Western Cape was because the locations selected for the filming were very similar to Angola.
“The film is about a soldier making his way home. He is in different locations with different looks and feels, so we have to shoot in different locations,” Hayward said.
Van Zyl said although the film focused on topics around the Border War it was not a biographical film and the main character, Henk, was not based on anyone in particular.
“He is inspired by these men [soldiers who fought on the border] and their untold stories,” he said.
The film contrasted the idea of a predator in the form of a conscripted soldier and, on the other hand, a family man with a wife and child, he said.
“The story is inspired by bravery and valour, coupled with history – it is not only about the recce, it is more than that, with romantic elements,” he said.
The film, which used different and avant-garde techniques and elements, was “rooted in the collective consciousness of society”.
“[It] doesn’t give the audience or the characters a resolution at the end . . . people must think about it.
“It forces people to face something they don’t want to address [and] puts violence under the microscope,” Van Zyl said.
Lead actor Gregory Kriek (Henk) said the film “is quite the journey”.
“Out of all the projects I have worked on there is something that stands out about this one,” Kriek, who is also a producer and writer in his own right, said.
It dealt with sensitive topics and was something refreshing to come out of South Africa as it steered away from mainstream and commercial concepts.
“The beautiful thing about it is that it is not really a war film, it’s a survival film,” Kriek said.
Kriek had to be trained in military combat for the film.
“[The film] is emotionally and physically taxing but is definitely worth it,” he said.
The Recce (a working title) is an independent film and has been funded by a private investor.
Filming will be wrapped up late next month, with the intent to complete post production by latest early January to be in time to submit it for international film festivals.