'Skollie' movie moves prisoners to tears
JOHN Fredericks, 70, is a storyteller and, after more than a decade in which he used this talent to thrill small audiences, he has finally leapt into the big time with the premiere of a movie based on his life, Noem My Skollie(Call me Thief).
This week, the movie – which mirrors the experiences of many young coloured people growing up on the Cape Flats – was screened to prisoners at Pollsmoor Prison.
Set in the 1960s, it chronicles Fredericks’s youth in Kewtown, Athlone, from his arrest and release from prison, followed by a period on death row after being convicted for a murder he did not commit.
With the tagline “every calling has its price”, the movie had the Pollsmoor Prison audience in tears at the end of the screening.
“I got a label a very long time ago of 'call me skollie, that’s my story', and I wear it proudly because it did not stop me from reaching my dream.
"Today, (yesterday) the inmates were in tears because they saw themselves. I told their story,” said Fredericks
Fredericks, the son of a rubbish collector, said he would go to the rubbish dump looking for any book to read.
“In prison, my cell mates would listen to my stories. I used our surroundings, their scars and tattoos and made them part of my stories. They would say my stories weren't real because they had no titles,” he said.
Like the main character, Fredericks’s love of reading and telling stories helped him avoid prison categories.
“Back then, young people were thrown in with older inmates and you were given the choice of either becoming a number or a concubine. I could read and write and it saved me, as I could write and read letters for them,” he said.
He said he had quit a well-paid job as a security guard at the age of 50 to pursue his dream. Twelve years later his life story has finally hit the big screen.
Director Daryne Joshua said he was drawn to the story because, having grown up on the Cape Flats, he could relate to it.
“It's been such a long road and we had a really good story that speaks of the reality of the coloured community in the apartheid years – and even today.
"We were the first South African production to shoot in the Cape Town film studio for a fraction of the cost,” said Joshua.
He said that finding four young leads was a challenge. More than 500 learners were auditioned, with only one being a trained actor.
“Finding the right cast was difficult and our story is set over many years. We used Ocean View as our setting for many of our scenes as it has not changed all that much over the years,” said Joshua.
He knows all about following dreams, as he left a media job at 26 to pursue directing.
“I hope we leave our audience with a sense of hope and that we are able to give others a peek into the challenges our people face, and how crime can easily seduce the young,” said Joshua.
Noem My Skollie premieres on September 2 at 30 Ster-Kinekor cinemas. Visit the official Facebook page for more information.