‘Blindelings’ is a brilliant psychological thriller by film-making couple Ivan Botha and DonnaLee Roberts

DonnaLee Roberts as gifted blind pianist, Rene, in ‘Blindelings’. Picture: Supplied

DonnaLee Roberts as gifted blind pianist, Rene, in ‘Blindelings’. Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 30, 2023


“Blindelings” couldn’t have asked for a more appreciative audience than those attending the 11th kykNET Silwerskerm Film Festival in Cape Town last week.

With industry creatives in attendance, their applause validated the hard work that went into making this shoestring-budget psychological thriller.

Respected industry couple Ivan Botha and his wife DonnaLee Roberts co-produced this film with Danie Bester.

Botha and Roberts, who own 17 Films, also share the writing credits with Ernst van Wyk and Liani Jansen van Rensburg.

And Botha wears the director hat in this feature.

The idea for “Blindelings” was conceived during Covid-19.

It was a passion project for the couple, who are known for their work in “Beurtkrag”, “Stoomop”, “Vir Altyd” and “Pad na jou hart”, to explore something different.

Cognisant of the budget, they contained the worlds in which the story played out to a handful of locations, the primary set being a remote farmhouse.

The premise centres on Rene (Roberts), a gifted pianist. Her passion for music placed her on the path of global success with Albert (Ludwig Binge), her manager, determined to see her soar to new heights.

But Rene’s loss of vision – she processes the world through blurred colours, a condition referred to as synaesthesia – puts a spanner in Albert’s plans.

The situation is compounded by a stalker, who has left Rene traumatised after one of her performances.

Her real estate husband Paul (Jacques Bessenger) is protective of Rene. But he is neck-deep in debt, which has resulted in their medical cover being cancelled.

Rene becomes a viable candidate for an eye transplant but there aren’t any funds available for the operation.

Paul, who has had to sell his fancy car and is now using a rental, is conflicted and does his best to resolve the situation.

And it looks like his misfortune is about to change when he crosses paths with a potential buyer Steyn (Wilhelm van der Walt).

Steyn is quite mysterious but he promises Paul immense wealth if he agrees to work for him. And he has one condition: Paul must come over to his remote family farmhouse where he can unwind and they can talk shop.

With everything that has been going on, Paul, hesitant at first, agrees. And he takes Rene along on the trip as well.

What starts out as an innocuous banter with Steyn yanking Paul’s chain a bit after their arrival turns sinister when the two go on an early morning hunting trip.

Rene enjoys the solitude and explores (via touch and sound) the place. In doing so, she comes across a few dangerous weapons but thinks nothing of it until Steyn returns without Paul.

Not only that, his entire personality has changed. As such, Rene relies on her senses to keep her safe from this stranger.

So begins a cat-and-mouse chase where Rene evens the playing field by leaving Steyn in the dark as well.

“Blindelings” is so well-written that it has the audience glued to the screen from start to finish. While Steyn is a bit of an enigma, the story comes full circle with a shocking twist at the end.

Let’s just say, money, power and unrequited love can be deadly incentives in the wrong hands.

Roberts, who wore special contact lenses to lend credulity to her blind character, delivered a sublime performance. She covered a wide gamut of emotions from calm and loving to annoyed and fearful, becoming fearless with conviction. Bessenger, a doyen in the industry, complemented her beautifully.

And Binge was mesmerising in executing the duality of his character.

Overall, this psychological thriller, with English subtitles, is masterfully handled. Budget notwithstanding, the team delivered a film that doesn’t compromise on quality.

“Blindelings” is indicative of the strides our industry is making where Mzansi no longer views Hollywood as a benchmark but as a worthy competitor.

∎ “Blindelings” is showing on DStv BoxOffice until October 7.