Cape Town - The story of Kanarie is one of the stories about Apartheid that we’ve lost.
Set in South Africa in 1985 against a backdrop of Apartheid, religion, and war, Kanarie follows a teen boy (Schalk Bezuidenhout) who has always been bullied in his small town for his flair for British new wave music and love of Boy George.
After he gets called on by the military and auditions for the Canaries (the South African Defence Force Church Choir and Concert Group), he believes the choir will be his ticket out of fighting the war, but he begins to see the role he plays in the oppression and injustice around him. On tour, he develops feelings for a fellow Canary and he starts to question everything he knows about himself, leading to a confrontation with his commanding officers.
Co-written by Christiaan Olwagen and Charl-Johan Lingenfelder, the movie tells a story inspired by Lingenfelder’s own experience within the military during Apartheid.
Lingenfelder is an acclaimed multi-hyphenate within the South African arts scene, having won numerous Naledi and Fleur du Cap awards for his film and theatre work. He is currently the resident Musical Director for the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town.
While Kanarie director Olwagen was unavailable to speak about making the film, as he is shooting his next project, Lingenfelder was willing to share his experience writing such a moving story.
“It was very difficult digging up this story that had been buried for so long. But once we started writing, it was clear how desperately all of this history wanted to be dug up and dealt with. It was a very cathartic experience,” he said.
“The story was always there - waiting to be unpacked and shaped. All it needed was for director and co-writer Christiaan Olwagen to lift the lid on it. I told him about my military experiences and he immediately saw the cinematic potential within it.
“At first we didn’t even contemplate the political significance, but just felt like we wanted to share this very personal story with the world. Only once the film was finished, did we realise that we had tapped into a zeitgeist, and that the world was ready and indeed in need of, such a story.”
Lingenfelder shared that such a story is incredibly necessary for South African audiences to see, and the emotional response from overseas audiences has overwhelmed them.
“Christiaan and I set out to make the movie we wished we had seen as teenagers. A movie that shows people that no matter their circumstances, they are not alone. And even though it deals with issues regarding the military, religion, sexuality, bullying from an Afrikaans 80’s perspective - EVERYONE is relating and responding.
“Based on the film's success abroad, it is clear that it is not only us who are needing to see this film,” Lingenfelder said.
“Writing the film was cathartic. Making it was harrowing. And now watching it roll out is enlightening. Up to the moment we decided the film was finished and ready to be seen, we had no idea what we had created. I’m still not sure. But it’s out there now and I’m very grateful audiences are approving.”
Kanarie is out in theatre this weekend.
Run time: 123 minutes
Kanarie stars: Schalk Bezuidenhout, Hannes Otto, Germandt Geldenhuys, Gerard Rudolf, Jacques Bessenger, Ludwig Binge, Francois Jacobs, De Klerk Oelofse, David Viviers & Andrico Goosen. The film was co-written by Christiaan Olwagen & Charl-Johan-Lingenfelder and produced by Marche Media.