The Afrikaans language is rich in talent – poets and authors, performers and playwrights. There’s a deep and full tradition of radio drama in Afrikaans as there is a history of children of Afrikaans heritage being schooled in the traditional performing arts and being audience members at ballets and operas from babyhood. Indeed, there’s a fabulous tradition of anti-establishment pop music in Afrikaans, to say nothing of a burgeoning presence of Afrikaans productions of Shakespeare and Chekhov on our stages. Why then, should Afrikaans-speaking film going audiences be subjected to such utter trash as Strikdas?
Strikdas – ‘n Familie Gedoente is billed as a comedy which makes it all the more horrifying. Since when is the humiliation of someone because he is poor considered laugh-a-second material? This is basically the theme of this offensively written story, which comprises characters boasting the depth of cardboard cutouts and an engagement with society through the narrative as though this were 1972 and a mandate was in place to shelter white Afrikaans speakers from ‘die swart gevaar’.
It pretends to be a university tale set in the beautiful environs of Stellenbosch University. Well, it is, indeed, set in Stellenbosch University’s beautiful environs, but the level of repartee between the youngsters make the idea that they are university students, laughable. The level of intrigue in this nonsense is as sophisticated as something Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or Secret Seven could have coined on a bad day.
Two kids, Willemien De La Harpe (Leandie du Randt) and Don ‘Vossie’ Voster (Kaz McFadden) are about to embark on their university careers and the plot ahead from the get-go seems so obvious, you sigh. It’s cobbled with the pride of families and a disparate set of social skills, so crudely constructed that it is not clear how or why Vossie is at university altogether, he so radically lacks any level of intelligence, social skills or credibility.
Similarly Willemien: she cooks up an idiotic plan to defeat her stern father who wants her to marry her boyfriend AJ Blignaut (Sean-Marco Vorster), the son of a rich businessman. The boyfriend is yet another weakly cast stereotype, his greatest sin being talking to another young lady, it seems, other than the sin of his limp-wristed portrayal of the handsome young suitor. But the sneaky plan cooked up by the young blonde is one that flippantly features the humiliation of a boy she doesn’t like because he comes of a lesser social set to her. Oh, and he wears a bowtie, which is a family heirloom. Riveting stuff, I tell you.
But it hardly seems fair to only isolate the central characters in this appalling piece of bilge. Each character – from the pseudo gothic little sister to the sinister grandmother to the boyfriend’s father with a hairstyle that speaks of the 1970s with revolting boldness, so patently lacks any level of development and the tale which should pin them together is so lacking in fluidity that could give it reason that you find yourself thrust into 90 minutes too much of witnessing a half-cocked situation that involves rich farm families and complex money deals and forged documents.
Nary an actor of colour is to be seen in this impossibly poor piece of film which has an obvious denouement and features such blatant cruelty from such undeveloped characters that you have to ask yourself what the funders of such nonsense are thinking? Or maybe you have to ask yourself why this industry deserves any funding at all, if this is what it can produce. Above all, you have to ponder why the Afrikaans-speaking film-going audiences are being so miserably patronised by the whole team that has put together a film of such dire weakness. Surely, they deserve better.
- Strikdas: ‘n Familie Gedoente is directed by Stefan Nieuwoudt and performed by Susanne Beyers, Elsabe Daneel, Gys de Villiers, Leandie du Randt, Albert Maritz, Kaz McFadden and Sean-Marco Vorster. It is produced by Stefan Enslin and Philo Pieterse, and created by Etienne Fourie and Stefan Enslin (scriptwriters) Jacques Koudstaal (director of photography), Johan Kruger and Anneke Villet (supervising producers) and James Caroll (editor) Release date: April 3 2015.
Categories: Film, Review, Robyn Sassen
Having witnessed about the last ten minutes of something called (I think) Dingetjie Is Dynamite – made in about 1975 – on Flieknet yesterday, one realises that our movie tradition is a richly woven tapestry of emptiness.
Indeed it is, but are the filmwatchers satisfied with this type of rubbish? And the funders? The abysmal waste of money that this represents makes my head spin.
I’d appreciate it if someone can please inform me what it is that South-African audiences “want”? And why isn’t anyone making it? If one can consider a film like “Four Corners” (which I was mad about) good, why was it a box office flop? Why are films like “Molly & Wors” and “Pad na jou Hart” actually attracting audiences? Perhaps it is time we realize that we might be dealing with a mediocre audience who don’t want “artistic” films. Perhaps we should stop whining like a bunch of ladies and actually find a way to solve this dilemma. As far as Strikdas goes, I’m not ashamed to say that I enjoyed it, even though it was a bubblegum movie, it was good clean fun for the whole family (except maybe the snobs). In my opinion Strikdas wasn’t made to be anything more than an entertaining & quirky family movie and therefore cannot be judged as anything more than that. The mere thought of someone watching it in the hope of finding anything more is ridiculous. If that is what you’re looking for, rather join me at Cinema Nouveau.
Thank you for your comment, Lara. I hope it opens up some discussion. From where I sit, looking at the box office success of films like Strikdas, it saddens me that there is a tide of mainstream mediocrity which looks like it is going to allow the more challenging aspects of good art to wither away and die. On the other hand, I think this is a conversation had by arts practitioners, patrons and audiences for centuries and across geographies, but it really makes me sad to think of that rich, intelligent Afrikaans work getting lost to posterity because it can’t get support to get off the ground, and bubblegum nonsense like this, which doesn’t even grapple with South African contemporary realities, proliferates. I don’t think there’s a clear answer.