Despite being nominated for 12 Oscars, Spielberg's Lincoln was beaten at the local commercial box office on its opening weekend by the local Afrikaans film Klein Karoo. Regardt van den Bergh's romance landed in second, with Lincoln in 9th.
Set in the beautiful Swartberg, just outside Oudtshoorn, the film tells the story of a dedicated young teacher from Oudtshoorn who will do anything in her power to ensure that her dream of building a recreational centre at the local farm school, Kalfiskraal, comes true. When she meets a television journalist suffering from a broken heart, the attraction is instant and both their worlds are turned completely upside down.
"Despite the joy of writing Klein Karoo, there were many challenges," said screenwriter Etienne Fourie. "It was challenging to build a story from an existing concept. It was important that the story I presented to Kaapland was recognisable as the one that it began with. There were times when I found it extremely frustrating not to be able to write instinctively and manipulate the story into one that felt natural to me. It was more important that I understand the story from the start and to tackle this new world with my new character friends. Now I would not change them for the world."
"There are various reasons why I was attracted to Klein Karoo," said director Regardt van den Bergh.
Before van den Bergh read the script, Cobus van den Berg, Tim Theron and Jorrie van der Walt approached him to find out whether or not he would be interested in a project of this nature.
"Their enthusiasm to make a film and the way in which they related to the story, grabbed me from the start," said Van den Bergh. "I knew then that these guys knew what they were doing. Apart from the fact that the story is fresh and told with honesty, the location in which it was set excited me. I knew that we could make a beautiful film in the Klein Karoo. You cannot go wrong shooting in that area. Nothing compares with shooting a film in the platteland where you have the enthusiasm and support of the local community."
Colourful characters and delightful romance
One of the main reasons that local audiences found Klein Karoo appealing is definitely its colourful characters and delightful romance. "All the characters that Tim originally created were interesting and colourful," said Fourie.
"It was fun to work with characters that I liked, characters with whom I would like to have coffee and a chat. That helped the process immeasurably. Although I was introduced to most of these characters and they were not my own creation, it was important to me to put my own stamp on them."
For Fourie it was is an honour to have someone of the calibre of Regardt van den Bergh add his own magic to the words he you wrote in the darkness of his flat. "He is a legend," said Fourie of Van den Bergh. "For this reason it can put a lot of pressure on you as a writer not to disappoint. However, Regardt is such a nice guy that I was not stressed. I also did not think about that because whether the script is for Regardt or someone else, the story is the most important thing. A good story is a good story, no matter who tells it. That was and remains my first priority."
"Working with young filmmakers was also appealing to me," said Van den Bergh. "It was gratifying to see how the actors and technicians grew into their roles. Actors like Tim Theron and Donnalee Roberts (I should mention the entire cast) arrived on set with so much expectation and having prepared so hard, that it was truly refreshing. I especially enjoyed mining Tim's dry sense of humour and creating a platform for him to give full vent to this talent. I appreciated the dedication with which Donnalee approached her role and know that audiences will see that she really 'lived' this role. I could say the same of everyone involved."
"Technically we witnessed a miracle," concluded Van den Bergh. "We had so little time to shoot and it was a challenge to tell this story skilfully within the budget and time constraints. This is not my first experience working with young people in the industry and also not my first experience of first-time producers, but given the choice I would happily work with this team again."
Daniel Dercksen has been a film and theatre journalist in South Africa the past 30 years and as a trainer and educator has presented regular workshops in scriptwriting and creative writing during the past 17 years.
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