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Winner of the Audience Award at the Durban International Film Festival, Felix was directed by Roberta Durrant, whose work we are very familiar through sitcoms like Sgudi ‘Snaysi and Stokvel, dramas like Home Affairs and the Emmy-nominated Sokhulu and Partners, and films like Inside Out and Skilpoppe.
WHILE director and producer Roberta Durrant is very project orientated, working on Felix has reminded her that she likes working on feature film sets, so she is definitely going to try to make more films in future.
The marketing campaign for Felix is in full swing and she will be travelling overseas soon to take the family feature to Germany’s Lucas International Children’s Film Festival and the Hamburg Film Festival, Canada’s Vancouver International Film Festival and the 57th London Film Festival.
While travelling she is working on a few ideas for forthcoming film projects, and she has not dropped the tv making – in between all the other projects she is working on a tv series centred around human trafficking for e.tv, titled Traffic.
The key to multi-tasking in this manner is be super-organised. Shooting Felix required micro- managing schedules since the crew were working with children who could only work for a specific number of hours a day and needed to get their regular tutoring in on set, to boot.
Durrant is one of those rare directors who loves working with children and laughs as she explains how the dog used in Felix behaved perfectly every time.
If only every actor could be as well trained to hit the mark every time, she joked.
The five-week shoot in Langa threw up some colourful ideas for cinematographer Natalie Haarhoff and some stomach-churning moments for vegetarian Durrant when she had to shoot with a shisa nyama (braai) – complete with meat flying through the air – in the background.
Deliberately portraying Langa in primary technicolour against the private school’s grey skies and dull colours heightened the effect of a fable, which is what Durrant was aiming for.
Working on the very female- orientated set (in addition to the cinematographer, the writer, line producer, art director, make-up/ hair artist and wardrobe stylist were all women) may make for great headlines, but for Durrant it is par for the course since she has always worked with as many women as possible.
Back when she started directing television in the 1980s, after years of acting and directing on stage and in film, Durrant, along with Katinka Heynes and Annie Basson, were ones paving the way forward with very little fuss:
“Women make good directors because it’s a very nurturing job and women are also usually multi-task oriented,” she explained.
Durrant has gained a reputation in the industry as a very supportive mentor and has been at the forefront of developing television series in the country for years.
She speaks fondly of working on Going Up, which at the time really pushed the envelope by putting different race groups together on screen at the same time, speaking a variety of languages in one scene.
Several languages are mixed up in Felix, though it is dominated by English, with a jazzy soundtrack for an emotional echo.
Durrant was attracted to Shirley Johnston’s script, but specifically homed in on the story arc concentrating on the mother’s journey.
She insists the script was pretty much ready by the time it reached her, and they simply worked together to highlight that journey a bit more.
The director was attracted by the mother’s journey because Felix is so intent on his dream, he drags his mother along and eventually she’s able to deal with her anger about her husband dying and leaving her with three small children: “So, it’s a journey of letting go,” she said.
She sees families as the potential audience for Felix, as pre-screenings showed that mothers and children alike, enjoyed the film.
Also, she sees it cutting across cultures because it touches on the simple idea of a child following his dream and dragging everyone in his wake: “We have to overcome this perception that if something is about someone from a different background, it is not for me.”