Film lays bare struggles of a Dorpie

A still from the documentary showing what youngsters get up to. Inset is the official poster for the documentary.

A still from the documentary showing what youngsters get up to. Inset is the official poster for the documentary.

Published Jun 30, 2023


In a moving tribute to a selfless Bredasdorp community worker, local documentary, Dorpie, follows Lana O'Neill as she establishes a safe house in the town plagued by poverty, addiction and sexual violence against women.

Having held its Cape Town premiere to a sold-out audience at the Encounters International Film Festival at the Labia Theatre last night, the documentary offers a tribute to O'Neill's compassion, while highlighting important structural inequalities.

“Dorpie is a harsh reality of what is happening, not just in Bredasdorp, but South Africa as a whole. It aims to educate and empower,” said O'Neill, 55.

Fondly known as “Aunt Lana”, O'Neill said she used tough love to change the lives of those in need.

“I am here to help the vulnerable and the poor. People must just come together, get out of their luxury homes.

“But as long as the community says ‘it’s not my problem, it’s their problem, they want to be like that’ then there’s always going to be another rape or another murder,” she said.

Directed by Cape Town-based multimedia journalist, producer and director, Julia Jaki, the documantry further highlights the daily lives of those affected by various social ills, including Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

Jaki said she wanted to pay tribute to O'Neill who spent her days ensuring the safety of young women.

She said she first visited the town following the rape and murder of Anene Booysen.

Lana O’Neill devotes her time every day to helping women. Picture: Eaton De Jongh

“I'm originally from Germany and I've been living here since 2012.

“I went to Bredasdorp in 2014 for the first time, a year after the rape and murder there that made international headlines. I just wanted to do a follow up and see what has been happening.

“When I was there doing my research I met Lana.

“As soon as I saw her and met her I realised that she was an incredible person and that I want to do a documentary on her.

“The aim of the documentary is to highlight what people are doing on the ground, people such as Lana, who get up everyday and devote their time and energy to helping women, not only when it's International Women’s Day or if the media is there with a photo opp, but do it everyday, 24/7.

“That was my aim. To also show that we all have to overcome GBV not only in SA but worldwide.

“I just hope that when people watch it they get the understanding and compassion and feel inspired by people like Lana,” Jaki said.

Speaking on how she got into community work, O'Neill said her life’s experiences led her to where she was.

“It all started very unconsciously. I was molested at the age of 11 years old.

“In 2005 I started to work with children and everything came after.”

Describing the documentary, the Encounters International Film Festival said, candidly shot, it showed how poverty, addiction and sexual violence wreaked havoc on the often desperate lives of the women of Bredasdorp and consequently on the community as a whole.

Cape Town-based multimedia journalist and producer and director Julia Jaki.

“This delicately rendered film offers a sensitive character study of a woman making the most of her natural leadership qualities but struggling against the tide.

“While Dorpie provides a moving tribute to Lana’s fiery compassion, the film also makes it clear that one woman, no matter how determined, cannot transform the structural inequalities that make life so precarious for the most vulnerable South Africans.”

The Encounters International Film Festival runs until July 2.

Dorpie will next be showcased at the Goethe Institute Joburg on Saturday at 11:00am, followed by a panel discussion and drinks at reception.

Dorpie’s trailer can be viewed here:

Cape Times

* The Cape Times’ Big Friday Read is a series of feature articles focusing on the forgotten issues that often disappear in the blur of fast news cycles, and where we also feature the everyday heroes who go out of their way to change the lives of others in their communities.

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