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

FEATURE: KLEIN KAROO NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL (KKNK)

Tinarie Van Wyk-Loots in In Glas

This feature was first published in Cape Times on 02 April 2015.

How do you spell festival?

Spotted on the cover of the recently launched Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK) programme, that’s the question on everyone’s lips ahead of the big trek to Oudtshoorn next month.

Promising to kick up dust and ruffle a few ostrich feathers along the way, the event’s 21st edition is set to take place from 3 – 11 April. Announced at the end of February, the line-up is full of discourse, concerts, theatre, visual art, comedy and film screenings.

One of the most popular elements any year is KKNK’s music offering. Combining the talents of Gloria Bosman, Anna Davel and Timothy Moloi, mark Afrika in Afrikaans at the top of your viewing list. Supported by a four-piece band, the show sees this dynamic trio perform “Afrikaans songs infused with African textures.”

Born in Africa and transported to America by slaves, the roots of blues music is explored in Al Lê die Berge nog so Blou. Led by Alvin Dyers and his musical group, the production involves Zolani Mahola, Albert Frost and Francois van Coke embarking on “a musical journey full of songs and stories.”

After a decade as frontman of Van Coke Kartel and Fokofpolisiekar, Francois Van Coke will make his debut as solo musician during the week via a concert showcasing songs from his first album, Moontlik Nooit. While on the topic of alternative music, also do yourself a favour by checking out Oudtshoorn’s very own drag queen, Samantha Knight, in a lip synch extravaganza, Afridiva.

Another strong aspect of KKNK has always been its theatre segment. Following popular runs in Cape Town over the past year, now’s a great chance to catch Oscar Petersen’s Cape Flats adaptation of Siener in die Suburbs, Penny Youngleson’s intense Nat, Philip Dikotla’s Fleur du Cap-winning Skierlik, the Papercut Collective’s witty UHM as well as Jaco Bouwer’s existential Na-aap.

One of South Africa’s foremost conceptual directors, Bouwer (BalbesitSamsa-masjien) will be debuting French playwright Bernard-Marie Koltès’ Buite Blaf die Honde Swart as well. Translated by Tertius Kapp (Rooiland), the stellar cast is made up of Dawid Minnaar, Albert Pretorius, Tinarie Van Wyk-Loots and Bongile Mantsai.

Known for always taking festivalgoers on an adventure – including a physical bus ride in Trippie and recreating a Boer War concentration camp in Land van Skedels – this time around it is suburbia and motherhood tickling Nicola Hanekom’s fancy. Van Wyk-Loots stars here too, alongside Paul du Toit, Stian Bam, Bronwyn van Graan and Sive Gubangxa.

André P. Brink, who passed away last 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. Bidsprinkaan is based on his novel by the same name and is directed by Janice Honeyman.

The recipient of the 2015 Kunste Onbeperk-prize for Young Voice is Wessel Pretorius (WaterpasUndone). This young theatremaker just keeps on delivering, and following Frats at the US Woordfees in Stellenbosch earlier this month, has penned two new plays for KKNK. They are Al Julle Volke, a metaphorical examination of the Afrikaner’s search for a leader; and comedy Sandton City Grootdoop, in which a mother and two daughters take time out of shopping in order to settle a few scores.

Fans of the popular kykNET sketch comedy show Proesstraat will be happy to learn that the whole team is in Oudtshoorn this year. For even more laughs also look out for comedians Schalk Bezuidenhout, Marc Lottering, Nik Rabinowitz and Rob van Vuuren, who’ll all be appearing in their own stand-up shows.

Only two dance productions, both by the Mother City’s Underground Dance Theatre (Mode), have been included on the programme. They are Bok, the company’s sexy Afro interpretation of Vaslav Nijinsky’s controversial Afternoon of a Faun that had me hooked at last year’s National Arts Festival; as well as Askoop, a brand new dance-cabaret that “reveals the iconic shopping trolley as more than just a wheeled metal structure.”

Movie junkies are catered for thanks to a host of titles screened as part of the kykNEt Fliekpiekniek and Toekomsrus Moviehuis initiatives. Among the new and old favourites shown are Pad Na Jou HartKhumbaJoost: Spel van GlorieFaan se TreinFour CornersHard to Get and Leading Lady.

Turning the gaze from the cinema to visual arts, this year’s festival artist is Berni Searle, who returns to KKNK after an absence of 15 years. Called Stygend, her exhibition is made up of three video projections – Mute (2008), Alibama (2008) and Black Smoke Rising (2009) – that relate to “the South African landscape and post-colonial history.”

The recipient of the Kunste Onbeperk Lifetime Achievement-award is Peter Magubane. Curated by the iconic photographer alongside Paul Bayliss, Die Afrikaners: ‘n Werk in Wording is described as Magubane’s homage to Afrikaner culture and traditions.

Open daily at the Prince Vincent building, other artists showing work there include Frikkie Eksteen, Diane Victor, Vulindlela Nyoni, Susan Grundlingh and Corlie de Kock.

While some of us are more suited to appreciate than to create art, those wishing to sharpen their creative skills can sign up for one of various art workshops led by the likes of Janet Dixon, Madeleine Miles and Neels Coetzee.

The final component of the KKNK programme worth booking a few seats for are it’s vast discourse series. Led by Freek Robinson, “Hate speech versus freedom of speech”, “Where does our electricity come from?” and “The implications of fracking in the Karoo” are a few of the topics that will come under the spotlight.

l For the full KKNK programme, see www.kknk.co.za. To book tickets, call Computicket at 0861 915 8000, or see www.computicket.com.

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

FEATURE: KLEIN KAROO NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL (KKNK)