REVIEW: DIS EK, ANNA

Charlene Brouwer as AnnA
Charlene Brouwer as Anna

This review was first published in Cape Times on 23 October 2015.

DIS EK, ANNA. Directed by Sara Blecher, with Charlene Brouwer, Morne Visser, Nicola Hanekom, Izelle Bezuidenhout, Marius Weyers, Eduan Van Jaarsveldt, Drikus Volschenk, Hykie Berg and Kara Van Der Merwe. STEYN DU TOIT reviews.

*****

A visibly upset, yet determined-looking woman is driving towards her unknown destination at the start of Tertius Kapp’s Dis Ek, Anna. Chain smoking and clearly affected by a programme on the radio about long-term self-deception as coping mechanism, when also breaking down upon hearing a father send out a dedication to his daughter over the airwaves, the viewer is able to start scooping up the first few pieces of her puzzle.

Based on Anchien Troskie’s top-selling autobiographical novels Dis Ek, Anna and Die Staat Teen Anna Bruwer, the film then sees the woman (played by Charlene Brouwer) arrive at the home of an unnamed couple during the early hours of the morning. Opening the door after being woken up, there is only enough time for the woman to say, “It’s me, Anna”, before she lifts a gun and purposefully pumps the man (Morne Visser) full of bullets.

Directed by Sara Blecher and arriving on circuit after winning Best Director, Best Actor and Best Film at this year’s kykNET Silwerskerm Film Festival, the rest of this acclaimed movie then tries to place Anna’s actions within context, while simultaneously following its immediate repercussions and the effect her act has on everyone involved.

Kapp’s script shows each new piece of information to the viewer without embellishments or euphemisms, with the purpose here not to present matters in black or white, but rather as a series of grey areas in which variables are determined based on culture, religion, oppression, suppression and whatever that thing inside each of us is that ultimately govern our behaviours.

We learn that the man Anna killed was her stepfather, Danie du Toit, and with her mother, Johanna (Nicola Hanekom), turning out to be the woman in the house with him at the time of his death. In addition, Anna does not go into hiding but instead hands herself over to the police immediately afterwards – not only confessing to pulling the trigger but also motivating her actions by saying “someone had to stop him.”

As the film previously received an 18 LV (SV) rating from the Film and Publication Board (FPB) and deals with the horrific topics of child abuse and pedophilia, I am not going to lie and say this is an easy picture to watch. However, given our country’s high statistics around these kind of crimes, and the silence with which these matters usually get treated, I’d also say we are way beyond the point of pussyfooting past reality.

Dis Ek, Anna is a product that the Afrikaans (and local) film industry can truly be proud of – both from a technical point of view as well as in its mature approach to presenting its subject matter to the viewer. This is a film for grown-ups, made without any assumptions about its audience, their intelligence or level of conservatism.

Shot by director of photography Jonathan Kovel and edited by Nicholas Costaras, the cinematography accurately captures the various emotions, internal conflicts and eras of Anna’s life as the plot progresses.

Also included in the visual narrative are several casual observations – presented at times so fast you almost miss it – depicting both cultural and political elements from the periods the film takes place in, as well as observations around the predatory/prey nature of Anna and Danie’s relationship.

Whether restless, playing with light and dark or supplemented by Schalk Joubert’s fantastic score, these technical undertones again demonstrates the overall professionalism and sincerity behind the making of this feature.

Dis Ek, Anna, however, is ultimately a character study and therefore everything boils down to its cast. Made up of a large number of stage and screen icons – including Marius Weyers, Elize Cawood, David Minnaar, Elton Landrew and Ilze Klink – there is not one person that comes across as trying to be bigger than the story or common purpose of the film.

As the film’s lead – from the way she nervously flicks her lighter to the confidence with which she announces herself to Danie – Brouwer is utterly convincing from the start. This will likely be the role this gifted actress will be remembered for for a long time, but hopefully will also open the kind of doors that could allow her to take on equally challenging future roles.

In what must have been incredibly difficult parts to accept given the nature of these characters, both Visser and Hanekom are to be commended for stepping up to the plate as Danie and Johanna respectively.

Visser, in particular, has to dig very deep not only to be able to portray the kind of monster required but also in such a way that it forces the viewer to also wonder what kind of a society we are creating that produces such creatures. I was surprised to learn that, after 20 years in the industry, his win at Silwerskerm was the first award Visser had ever received.

While it would be equally easy to hate Hanekom’s character for her role in Anna‘s whole ordeal, once again the character is played with such flaw and focus that you can’t help but both be disgusted and heartbroken at a woman who can witness a man making advances on her own daughter one moment, yet transform into a giddy girl herself minutes later when, in an attempt to win her back over, proposes to her (in front of said daughter).

A film that finds itself in the ruined lives of broken adults and the sick cycles we as humans seem to perpetuate, finding the cracks of hope that ultimately shine through Dis Ek, Anna is the final reason to not miss this stellar film.

Steyn du Toit is a Cape Town-based freelance arts journalist. For any questions, please e-mail steyndutoit (at) gmail (dot) com. 

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REVIEW: DIS EK, ANNA

REVIEW: 10 THEATRE PRODUCTIONS NOT TO MISS AT WOORDFEES THIS YEAR

This review was first published in Sunday Independent on 1 March 2015.

Marius Weyers and Sandra Prinsloo as Danie and Pam in Vir Ewig en Altyd (Pic: Hans van der Veen).
Marius Weyers and Sandra Prinsloo as Danie and Pam in Vir Ewig en Altyd (Pic: Hans van der Veen).

The 16th US Woordfees (word festival) kicks off in Stellenbosch this week, and promises 10 days filled with literature, music, intellectual discourse, visual art and community outreach initiatives. The programme’s theatre component once again boasts an impressive mix of new and established works as well. STEYN DU TOIT picks the 10 productions not to miss this year.

Wessel Pretorius in Adam Twee (Pic: Maggie Gericke).
Wessel Pretorius in Adam Twee (Pic: Maggie Gericke).

ADAM TWEE

Written and directed by one half of acclaimed Cape Town-based theatre collective Rust Co-Operative, Philip Rademeyer’s Adam Twee (Adam two) is a one-hander that asks, “What makes a person a person?” Starring fellow exciting young theatremaker Wessel Pretorius, this debut piece is set in a post-apocalyptic Western Cape, and grapples with issues of love, faith, Afrikaner identity as well as the unbearable lightness of being.

DIE SEEMEEU

Based on Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s timeless play, Die Seeumeeu (The Seagull) is the first of three Woordfees productions translated into Afrikaans by new festival manager Saartjie Botha. It is also one of a trio of plays directed by this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre, Christiaan Olwagen. Supported by a juggernaut cast that includes the likes of Marius Weyers, Sandra Prinsloo, Albert Pretorius, Gerben Kamper and Rolanda Marais, Die Seemeeu first opened at last year’s Aardklop National Arts Festival in Potchefstroom.

A scene from Dogma (Pic: Hans van der Veen).
A scene from Dogma (Pic: Hans van der Veen).

DOGMA

Dogma, Olwagen’s second production as director, sees him enter into a conversation between the church of his youth and the church of today. Consisting of a stellar ensemble made up of Erik Holm, Tinarie van Wyk Loots, Roelof Storm and Albert Pretorius, the play asks difficult questions around faith, suffering and the past. Revolving around a young man witnessing the deterioration of his parents’ marriage after his dad, a pastor, is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), this site-specific work (performed in an abandoned church at last year’s Klein Karoo National Arts Festival) also looks at matters relating to race, disability and fidelity.

ORGIE

André P. Brink, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 79, was recognised as of the most prominent figures of the group of Afrikaans writers known as Die Sestigers, who came to prominence during the 1960s. His 1965 publication Orgie (orgy) banished many of the taboos dominating Afrikaans literature at the time. Simultaneously, it was also an experiment with typography, which aimed to let the visual image in itself create meaning. Adapted for the stage and directed by Juanita Swanepoel, Orgie’s text is brought to life by Stian Bam and Tinarie van Wyk Loots.

PLAYLAND

Superlatively translated into Afrikaans by Saartjie Botha and skilfully directed by Albert Maritz, this two-hander has been described by Athol Fugard as “the most emotionally exhausting play I have ever written.” The result is an intense, hard-hitting theatrical experience that roller-coasters between challenging and entertaining its viewer. First staged at the Fugard theatre last year and starring Albert Pretorius and Mbulelo Grootboom, Playland recently also received nominations in the Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor as well as Best Set Design categories for March 15th’s Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards.

Shaleen Surtie-Richards, Richard September and Crystal-Donna Roberts in  Rondomskrik (Pic: Hans van der Veen).
Shaleen Surtie-Richards, Richard September and Crystal-Donna Roberts in Rondomskrik (Pic: Hans van der Veen).

RONDOMSKRIK

“Theatre is an empathy gym where we come to practice our powers of compassion,” Bill English wrote in a 2012 blog post. English’s quote has locally become synonymous with Rondomskrik, Rachelle Greeff’s Afrikaans play prompted by the brutal 2013 gang-rape and murder of Bredasdorp teenager Anene Booysen. Not simply retelling what is already known, the play also succeeds in placing Anene’s tragic tale into context; asking important questions about the kind of community that allows for such atrocities to happen and paying tribute to those uitkyk-anties (caring aunties) who still try to make a positive difference.

SIENER IN DIE SUBURBS

Hertzog Prize-winner PG du Plessis’s tragic yet ultimately hopeful tale is given a contemporary spin by Oscar Petersen, who has transported the action from the poor suburbs of 70s Johannesburg to the Cape Flats ganglands of today. Siener van die Suburbs (Psychic of the suburbs) is another of the Woordfees’s major productions this year, bringing together the acting talents of Shaleen Surtie-Richards, Christo Davids, Brendon Daniels and Crystal Donna Roberts.

SKULDEISER

Directed by Ilse van Hemert and starring Anna-Mart van der Merwe and Lionel Newton, Skuldeiser is an Afrikaans adaptation of Swedish playwright August Strindberg’s (Miss Julie) tragicomedy Creditors. Set at a seaside resort, the plot revolves around an artist and his wife getting caught up in a destructive sexual triangle. “In a world where everyone is dangerous and armed to the teeth,” the programme blurb promises, “90 minutes is enough to destroy a marriage completely.”

SON.MAAN.STERRE

The third Saartjie Botha-translated and Christiaan Olwagen-directed production staged as part of the programme this year, Alice Birch’s Many Moons, primarily deals with notions of love. Presented as a series of interconnected stories, the characters played by Louis van Niekerk, Wilna Snyman, Nicola Hanekom, Greta Pietersen and Wilhelm van der Walt in Son.Maan.Sterre each explores a different aspect traditionally attributed to love.

VIR EWIG EN ALTYD

Starring Marius Weyers and Sandra Prinsloo, Vir Ewig en Altyd is a harrowing two-hander that adopts a deliberate ambiguous methodology in its exploration of issues relating to euthanasia. Based on Australian playwright Tom Holloway’s And No More Shall We Part, this intensely poignant production also feels its way through issues of mortality, letting go and dying with dignity. It’s translated into Afrikaans, and is directed by Hennie van Greunen (The Sewing MachineRondomskrik).

The US Woordfees runs from March 6 – 15. For the full programme line-up, or to book tickets, see www.woordfees.co.za and www.facebook.com/Woordfees, or follow @WoordFees on Twitter. 

Steyn du Toit is a Cape Town-based freelance arts journalist. For any questions, please e-mail steyndutoit (at) gmail (dot) com. 

REVIEW: 10 THEATRE PRODUCTIONS NOT TO MISS AT WOORDFEES THIS YEAR