I’ve interviewed my fair share of film directors, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across one as passionate and outspoken as Maynard Kraak.
Kraak, the producer and director of the new comedy, Finders Keepers, wears his heart on his sleeve as we discuss his come-up, the difficulty of getting distributors and financiers to support local English films and, of course, this new movie.
Kraak has built an extensive portfolio as a television director since he began his career in 1999 as a director on Generations.
Finders Keepers is the fifth film produced under West Five Films, which is a production company he founded five years ago. It was one of the first films he had on his slate for development when he started the company.
Often mislabelled as an Afrikaans coloured, Kraak speaks of how when he first went searching for a distributor he was told there was no space for English South African films in the cinema, only Afrikaans. Defiant and resolute to get his project out there he pointed out how, although box office sensation Leon Schuster was Afrikaans, none of his big comedy films were actually in Afrikaans.
This didn’t hold him back and he instead devised a strategy by which he would gain some credibility.
And so, as his first project under West Five Films, he produced and directed an Afrikaans film, Vrou Soek Boer, which achieved massive success and even broke DStv’s box office record with more than 60 000 DVD units sold.
This helped him build rapport within the film industry and, distributors and financiers finally paid attention. Slowly but surely, he got the necessary backing to produce Finders Keepers.
“I’m from Cape Town and I wanted to do something which is set in Cape Town which is just fun and reminded me of when I was a kid and the silly comedies I’d watch as a teenager like Porky’s, Revenge of the Nerds, Weird Science, Bad Medicine Revenge and so on.
"It’s a film for all people, for all South Africans who have a sense of humour. And it’s actually really funny, which is the most important thing about it. For me this was a big exercise in making a project that can resonate to all South Africans, irrespective of race and creed.”
One of the main themes in the film is overcoming obstacles, he says. Finders Keepers touches on human trafficking (with a comedic spin on it, of course), as well as a whole case of mistaken identity involving a Russian mob and coloured gangsters. This is all centred around diamond smuggling and involves the theft of a lucky fish.
A big fan of American producer and director, Judd Apatow who works with a core group of actors and producers, he undertook a rigorous casting process where he sought to bring a comic element into the film space.
There are five comedians, including Dalin Oliver who Kraak believes will one day be the biggest comedy star in South Africa.
“He’s funny, he’s likeable, he’s odd-looking. There’s just something about him,” he quips.
I haven’t yet watched Finders Keepers. Kraak's passion alone has certainly convinced me to give it a watch.