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FILM isn’t the first medium you associate with Pieter-Dirk Uys, but it is yet another art form he seems to have conquered.
Later this month Uys will receive a special Teddy Award at the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) for his commitment to Aids education at South African schools and for his on-stage alter ego, Evita Bezuidenhout.
The Teddy Award is given for films with LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) topics, presented by an independent jury at the Berlinale and they are given to individuals for lifetime achievements.
Uys received an e-mail notifying him of the award and will travel to Germany next week to attend the ceremony and to perform his show, Desperate First Ladies, which he believes is closely linked to the Teddy Awards.
“The easy description of ‘drag’ is somehow pushed aside when the audience meets the nine women I portray in the show because each one has a soul and a secret. They all are proud of their fairness and humanity, but each in their own way is racist and prejudiced. And funny,” said Uys.
As an actor he grabs the challenge of using the same eyes, mouth, hands and face to convince the audience he is nine different people who all happen to be female.
“I also end with their own desperate first lady Chancellor Angela Merkel who, in a terrible wig, cries: ‘A hairdresser! A hairdresser! All our euros for a hairdresser’,” he explained.
While Uys is not convinced his work necessarily fits into the world of film, he realises the award has a lot to do with Julian Shaw’s documentary, Darling! The Pieter-Dirk Uys Story, which screened at the Berlinale in 2008.
“I never know how my works fits in anywhere, I actually hope it doesn’t; rather be a square peg in a round hole. Most people knew what I did and how I manage to use humour to fight fear. The best movies succeed with that recipe and Evita’s been inspired by the greatest movie stars from Sophia Loren, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich and Miss Piggy,” said Uys.
Uys performed at the 2008 Berlinale as Evita, but was still surprised by the tumultous reception.
“When you’re not known for films, in fact not known at all, it was very strange. But, I have learnt to trust Evita and make sure I keep my stomach in and make her look real and believable and funny. So what-ever I can weave is of consequence and substance and doesn’t look like a message, but part of the fun.
“Tilda Swinton was in the front row… and led the standing ovation. It was wonderful, seeing the huge audience erupt in cheers when Evita mirrored John F Kennedy’s famous words: ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ (should have been Ich bin Berliner, I am a Berliner) with her words ‘Ich bin ein Afrikaner!’
“As my mother, Helga Bassel, was born in Berlin it is always a special thrill for me to go back there and become part of the excitement. It is truly an extraordinary city.”
While in Berlin he’ll try to catch as many films as he can at the Berlinale and continue a long tradition of visiting the Marlene Dietrich Museum.
“It’s like visiting the Mona Lisa in Paris or the David in Florence. I’ll also go to the Berliner ensemble where Bertoldt Brecht performed all his great works. The production there is always a highlight and in very deep German too, which means no snoozing.”
Back home, Uys has been nominated in the Fleur du Cap Best Performance in a Revue Category, for FAK Songs and other Struggle Anthems in his guise as Bambi Kellermann and Capetonians will get to see him perform at the Baxter in September.