WAR MOVIE: A scene from Angels of the Skies.

WRITTEN and directed by Christopher-lee Dos Santos and produced by Diony Kempen, Angels of the Skies is a captivating film that screened at the Durban International Film Festival. The cast includes Nicholas van der Bijl, Ryan Dittman, Andre Frauenstein and David James.

When Britain declares war against Germany, Officer Earl Kirk, a young South African pilot, volunteers to serve in the Royal Air Force and leaves behind his pregnant fiancée to serve the British Empire. Kirk and the RAF crew are confronted with the harsh realities of war as their bomber slowly falls from the sky over northern Germany. After crash- landing, Kirk and his surviving crew have the enemy hot on their heels and he must find a way to get back to South Africa.

In an interview with Tonight, Dos Santos spoke about the film that took four years to make. “It’s about a bunch of boys who meet the crossroads of life and death and how they transform from boyhood and become men. The film holds some pretty big themes in my life. Also, in my other films, it’s always been about brotherhood, self-sacrifice, love. Those are things I like to share in my films. And it all came together into a nice action adventure,” he said.

Like a lot of film-makers, Dos Santos knew his calling at a young age.

“When I was very young I watched a movie called Memphis Belle. I must have been eight or 10 and was wowed by that film. I always knew I wanted to be a film- maker so there’s always been this romantic feeling of wanting to tell a world war movie through the eyes of a pilot. I never had the capability to do it because, you know how South African films are, we don’t have the budget to do it.

“I stayed in LA for about eight months and met a lot of young guys with a visual effects background who were directors. So when I came back, I knew I had the writing skills to write characters; I just needed the visual effects skills. So I decided to teach myself visual effects.

“I took a year off. There were scenes in the film that I wouldn’t write until I knew I could pull off the visual effects. There’s no point writing a scene if you can’t do it. So that did limit the writing, but I had two guys helping me with the visual effects.”

With an engaging story and dynamic on-screen action, Angels of the Skies is an interesting watch.

The director said the visual effects were the most challenging aspect in the making of the film: “That took the most time and was only completed recently. I’m not ashamed to say the entire movie was made in my bedroom. My room became my office. And it’s cool that after the screening, a lot of people came up to me and said thank you for showing the South African involvement in the war. They seemed to relate to the characters well and were very emotional every time a character lost his life during the war.”

Having achieved so much with a low budget, I asked what advice he’d give aspiring film-makers.

“Don’t give up. Stick to your guns. People will say you can’t do it, but don’t listen to them. In fact, people told me I wouldn’t do it.

“I stuck through it and I believed in it, it took me four years and it does pay off. The film played at Cannes (film festival) earlier this year, got an international deal and international distribution. So it’s great that it’s playing worldwide.”

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