VERY RARELY DO you get a coming together of narrative values that are not only sensitive to the text that they honour, but also have the maturity and sense of purpose to create a filmic product that stands on its own creative feet. This is what happens in the remake of the film of Dalene Matthee’s classic Afrikaans language film, Fiela se Kind, directed by Brett Michael Innes.
The story is so well-known, it has almost fallen into legend. White foundling lands on the doorstep of brown people in a country rife with racist values. They raise him as their own. But ten years down the line, a census is held and the colonialists in charge deem this relationship inappropriate. Child is spirited away to a “suitably white” family. Only the discrepancy between white and brown values is dire: the whites are filthy. They earn their keep by raping the forest of its stinkwood and its elephants as they kowtow to English-speaking colonialists in the town. And in terms of the prodigal son motif, you know what will happen, turning the circle narratively, and necessitating many tissues to wipe up tears, as it touches on Solomonic legend around a child with two mothers (and no DNA technology to prove who belongs to whom).
Led by an absolutely impeccable Zenobia Kloppers as the infinitely dignified, enormously beautiful Fiela Komoetie, the cast is very strong. The child performer Luca Bornmam, is a young performer with immense promise. He brings a blend of earnest intensity and profound vulnerability which is echoed in the adult performer who follows the trajectory of the character, Wayne Smith. And then, there is Wayne Van Rooyen in the role of Seller Komoetie, Fiela’s husband.
Fiela and her husband are iconic figures for the face of black adulthood of a particular generation and level of poverty in this country, and Kloppers and Van Rooyen capture this with muscularity and conviction as did Quanita Adams and Elton Landrew in a season of Athol Fugard’s Boesman and Lena some years ago. These are people who know abuse from others, but who hold their values together with an integrity that supersedes what it is to be wanting in material possessions or respect from those who deem themselves superior.
Kloppers’s corollary, Barta van Rooyen (Cindy Swanepoel), the long suffering white woman of a man prone to frustrated violence, who has lived under the thumb of abuse for generations, even though she knows she belongs to the privileged minority, is also magnetic in the sense of abjection and crippling self hate that she projects, under a veneer of empathy, making the story sizzle with layers.
And finally, there is the aspect of the land, which plays as significant a role in the narrative as any of the cast members. The unpredictable and oft cruel beauty of the unfarmed terrain between the coast near the small Western Cape Town of Knysna and Wolwekraal on the other side of the forest, where the Komoeties live, is filmed with an engagement that whips you into its harshness, as you sit in your cinema seat.
This rendition of Fiela se Kind – it was filmed in 1988 under the direction of Katinka Heyns and has been adapted for stage – is arguably the one you will remember and want to watch over and over again. It doesn’t pull punches in its representation of racial stereotypes as it brings a 19th century tale of love to fulsome life.
- Fiela se Kind is directed by Brett Michael Innes and features a cast headed by Israel Andries, Wim Beukes, Luca Bornman, Carla Classen, Roget Ellis, Stefan Erasmus, Leszaro Jackson, Luziun Jackson, Zenobia Kloppers, Liny Kruger, Elton Landrew, Keisha Louis, Willie Ludik, Leighman Marshall, Jordin Naude, Mateo Olivier, Kyra Phillips, Reghardt Pretorius, Clea Prins, Chiara Roodt, Wayne Smith, Francois Stemmet, Gerald Steyn, Morne Steyn, André Stolz, Cindy Swanepoel, Ivar Thomson, Wayne Van Rooyen, Daniel John Van Zyl, Drikus Volschenk and Melissa Willering. It is written by Brett Michael Innes based on the eponymous 1985 novel by Dalene Matthee. Produced by Danie Bester and Brett Michael Innes, it features creative input by Kyle Shepherd (music), Tom Marais (cinematography), CA van Aswegen (editing), Lelia Etsebeth (casting), Chantel Carter (production design) and Mari van der Merwe (costumes). Release date, Ster Kinekor, Cinema Nouveau: September 13 2019.