Vaselinetjie cast. Picture: Supplied

Vaselinetjie tells the tale of an orphaned white girl who initially gets raised by “her” coloured grandparents.

Later she is forced out of her grandparents home and learns to fend for herself. We spoke to screenwriter and director Corne van Rooyen about the upcoming film.

What made you decide to direct and write the screenplay for Vaselinetjie?

Eleven years ago I read the book and it became a dream of mine to make a movie of this incredible story and it’s characters, but the magnitude of this story, the vastness of its locations and the diversity of its cast scared me and it was only after I directed three other films that I decided to be brave enough to set out and make this film.

READ: 'Stronger' shows how inner strength defines us

What were the biggest challenges to adapting a book to the big screen?

The biggest challenge for me was to give the film its own voice apart from the book. You would think it was easy to go from book to film but I realized quickly a book and a film were two complete different mediums and one of the biggest reasons why I love film is that it’s a visual medium.

The book is very explicit at times. How did you adapt that for a PG 13 rating?

Because the story has explicit moments in it, my approach with the film was never to romanticise the explicit moments or force the audience to look at specific things in the frame - my aim was to never shock the audience but to allow them space to make up they own minds.

I did not want the technical aspects (like the camera, editing, music and sound) to force the audience to feel an emotion or to shock them.

Vaselinetjie premièred at the Silwerskerm film festival. How did you find that experience?

I loved being at the Silwerskerm festival this year - it’s a platform where filmmakers can create they own voices and this year especially was a year full of new unique voices.

The film also won best film at the festival. What was your reaction when they announced you as the winner?

I must say it was a dream of mine to screen Vaselinetjie at this the Silwerskerm festival and then to end up wining best film was just insanely crazy. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. It’s funny, before they announced the best film winner, I so badly wanted them to announce our film Vaselinetjie, and then when they did it felt like I was imagining it - so I did not get up at first, I just sat there in my seat applauding for a while.

The SA film industry has seen a huge improvement with regards to quality. Why do you think that has happened?

Our local films have conquered an international look and feel - and for the first time we don’t need to stand back, we are way up there with the best of them. Since the industry is blooming, we have the opportunity to work on several projects and hone our skills through every film we make.

Most of the actors in this film are child actors. What is the biggest difference between working with child actors and adult actors?

When casting child actors my aim was to cast kids that are as close as possible to the character themselves. So that they don’t need to act, they can just be themselves in front of camera. I just became a facilitator in this process. All I had to do was to win their trust and allow them to be free in font of the camera.

Corne van Rooyen. Picture: Jay Pieterse & Ivann Loots 

In which areas do you think SA cinema can still improve?

I would say we need to tell stories that can transcend the diverse cultures in South Africa. Even in Afrikaans, we should no longer target one specific cultural group. The language has many faces and voices it belongs to. 

The second aspect is international growth - and in a large part that comes down to improving the way we do post production. In all other areas there has been exceptional growth, but with post production we can focus on growing the standard of how the entire process is managed to take the film to the next level.

What do you think audiences will walk away with after seeing Vaselinetjie?

With the screenings that we have had, the most significant response was that audiences were walking away with a feeling of hope. As filmmakers, the main aim is always to entertain your audience, but at the end of the day when the viewer wakes up the next morning and the film has stayed with them, we feel that we’ve achieved that.