A compelling story is timeless.
Vaselinetjie has been Corné van Rooyen’s passion project for several years. He yearned to share Anoeschka von Meck’s novel, My Name is Vaselinetjie, on camera.
But he was as punctilious about the script, which he co-wrote with wife René van Rooyen, as he was about the casting.
The cast was balanced by heavyweights alongside talented youngsters, with Nicole Bond (younger Vaselinetjie Bosman), Shaleen Surtie-Richards (Grandma Kitta Bosman), Royston Stoffels (Grandpa Simon Bosman) and, of course, Marguerite van Eeden (older Vaselinetjie Bosman).
First, a little bit about the movie’s protagonist.
“I live and study in the most beautiful part of the world - Stellenbosch University. My days are spent listening to Bob Dylan’s Man in the Long Black Coat, having coffee dates with friends and exploring with Danie du Toit,” says Van Eeden.
She adds, “My previous experience is limited to a play at school, where I played a purple pig. After shooting Vaselinetjie, I started playing Anita in the kykNET series, Sara se Geheim.”
It was her tenacity that bagged her the movie role. The young actress shares: “I met Corné and René van Rooyen when I was 15, auditioning for Hollywood in My Huis. After this I stalked them on their production page website and saw they were in pre-production for Vaselinetjie. My mother and I bought the book and read it.
“Three years later, Susan Rabe, my agent at APM, remembered I really wanted to audition for this movie and got me an audition. I was the first to audition and it was done at Corné’s mum’s home in Stellenbosch.”
Having read the book, she was au fait with the emotional journey of her character.
In preparation for the role, she says, “I turned my room into her world; photos that reminded me of her and her story were pasted all over my walls. I kept a diary (a few diaries!) and spent time talking to her and reading through the texts (without sounding weird lol).”
Reflecting on the most unforgettable scenes to shoot, she offers, “I would say, the ones that we shot in Durban. For those gangster scenes, I found myself emotionally and physically tested.
“But it was also lovely because Bradley (Rashid in the movie) pushed me to limits that allowed me to gain confidence.”
As is often the case with narratives, the location becomes a character. Vaselinetjie was no exception.
Van Eeden recalls, “We filmed in Durban, Johannesburg and Springbok. In Durban, the holiday scenes. In Johannesburg, we shot in a old dilapidated children’s hospital (with ghosts) and, in Springbok, we captured the younger Vaselinetjie’s childhood scenes and the older Vaselinetjie’s scenes of returning home.”
On working with Surtie-Richards and the director, she says: “She is incredible and really just a lovely person, who I came to love both as a person and character. And she offered guidance, and only of the best sort.”
She continues, “He is incredible, I learnt so much from him and all my acting techniques and manners I owe solely to him.”
Why should South Africans watch this movie?
“It’s a timeless tale with themes that resonate strongly with audiences” she says. And it’s an empowering movie with conflicted and complex characters.
“Lastly, we need to support local films.”
Vaselinetjie won Best Film honours at the Silverskerm Festival 2017. And it made the Top 10 releases list in its opening week.