Romance blooms among ostriches

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TO SW Karoo

KLEIN KAROO

DIRECTOR: Regardt van den Bergh

CAST: Donnalee Roberts, TIm Theron, Hykie Berg, Anel Alexander, Helen Truter, Amalia Uys

CLASSIFICATION: PG

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

RATING: ***

FORGET love on the highveld, this is romance among the ostriches courtesy of the director who brought us Faith Like Potatoes and Die Ongelooflike Avonture van Hanna Hoekom.

Documentary film-maker Frans Coetzee (Theron) returns from what should’ve been a honeymoon on Zanzibar to drown himself in work in order to get over being jilted. While working in Oudtshoorn he meets the irrepressible Cybil Ferreira (Roberts) who struggles to convince her own fiancé that her work with a local group of farm children in need is not just a passing fancy.

Frans and Cybil start bonding over her work as he takes an interest in who she is, something her fiancé has failed to do and, voila, it’s a film.

Afrikaans romantic comedy feature films are not only starting to make an impression (if not at the box office, at least on the DVD shelf), but they’re starting to evince their own style.

Yes, Klein Karoo is still largely formulaic as it tries to hit the Hollywood beats, but there is an interesting pattern developing. Despite its insistence on shoehorning the story into the romcom mould (girl meets boy, they hit it off after initially hating each other, but then boy messes it up and has to win her back) the film gives the supporting characters quite a bit of leeway.

So while Frans and Cybil are pressed into cookie-cutter-shaped lead characters à la Hollywood mould (she has to be slightly offbeat, with a mission and in need of just the right man, while he has to be tough on the outside, but vulnerable and just a bit broken on the inside) everyone else has great fun with their characters.

Again, the kooky sidekicks are an old Hollywood standard, but these ones are done Saffa style. So Cybil’s sister Sophi and her best friend, Hermientie (Truter), have great fun and deliver some funny one-liners teasing Sophi’s germaphobic love interest and boss, Karel (Pierre Breytenbach is a delight), while Bouwer Bosch’s Brian is a literally shell-shocked cameraman who seems to have escaped from The Bang Bang Club movie. Even the director puts in a surreal little cameo.

In real life, if Cybil was helping out at a little farm school project in need of funding, the kids would not be as cute and problems would not be as easily solved by just making a kickass video promo.

While the needy kids provide the film character with a reason to be at loggerheads with her fiancé, that angle feels tacked on as it is never explored and it could just as well have been a hobby or an interest in preventing ostrich chicks from putting in an appearance on the dinner table that get Cybil and Meyer (Berg) arguing.

What is a step in the right direction, though, is that the film provides characters that local people can identify with because they see them in everyday life, albeit very sheltered Afrikaner life in Oudtshoorn. But the film is called Klein Karoo for a reason.

If you liked... Semi-Soet or Jakhalsdans... you will like this.


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