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Roodt finds fertile ground in Karoo

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TO SW Darrell on set

DIRECTOR Darrell Roodt was very much in the news as he worked on the film set of Winnie, shot last year around Joburg and Cape Town. He took a lot of flak for casting American actors as the leads of the quintessentially South African story, but has kept himself out of the limelight during the post-production period.

He didn’t stop working altogether, shooting a further two films since then. The Afrikaans romantic drama Stilte was filmed between February and March this year and the human drama Little One about three months ago.

“That was a quick one, we kind of fast-tracked that. It was just exactly right. Ironically, it finished at the same time as Stilte, and was shown before Stilte,” said Roodt in a telephonic interview.

Little One was screened for a week at the Bioscope in Cape Town, making it eligible for consideration as the South African entry to the Foreign Language category at the Oscars.

Roodt’s Yesterday was the first full length Zulu feature and the first South African film to be nominated at the Oscars (Mapantsula was the first submission, but it wasn’t nominated).

Little One features a cast of unknowns, but Roodt is sure the natural performances will be the key to people’s enjoyment of the film. That film should release in about February, but Roodt is more pragmatic about the local release of Winnie, which hits the US circuit next month.

He saw the biopic in Canada last week and says he liked it on the big screen, but called it “doomed”.

“Any film about Winnie [Mandela] was going to be a hard film to make,” he said tactfully.

The cinematography on Winnie was handled by Canadian Mario Janelle, which added the dimension of seeing the country through a foreigner’s eyes, which Roodt feels enhanced the look of the film.

Stilte’s cinematography, courtesy of Pierre Smith, is also a big component of the film, with the red hills of the Zwartberg outside of Oudtshoorn painting a different picture to the normal dusty pinks and pale greens of that area.

Roodt likes using regular people in his films whenever possible, rather than trained actors: “It’s difficult because it’s hard for the ‘real’ actors to act versus the other person. I loved Tant Miemie. She’s so very old-fashioned, so traditional, so very ordentlik [proper].

“The characters were there and when I found those two, I adjusted my script accordingly. I found the preacher-guy fascinating. I just let the cameras roll and the trick was getting him to stop.

“Those are the kinds of films I like to make. I love those real people, they do such unexpected things.”

He admits Jakhalsdans was a rough-and-ready shoot and the audience’s warm reception of the film spurred him on to Stilte, which has a bigger theme.

“It’s an unusual film. I surprised myself by making and writing it. I really enjoyed writing it.

“It’s just the film that jumped into my mind. I liked the idea of her losing her voice in a terrible way, and then trying to find it.

“It makes for an interesting character journey and I always have fun making movies in the Karoo.”

He doesn’t live in the Karoo, joking that he makes films to stay alive, not buy holiday homes, but says he could make a thousand films in that area.

“Each and every person I encounter there has an amazing story to tell. Now that would be an interesting body of work,” the director mused aloud.


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