Last week a delightful interview took place on The Honest Truth with director and writer Hanneke Schutte. You may know the name as she is one of the country’s leading female movie directors and it is such a milestone that her labour of love, Meerkat Maantuig opened at cinemas on Friday the 16th of March.
The theme behind the movie is one of overcoming your fears, the power of friendships and the resolve of the human spirit. It is no surprise that these universal themes have grabbed the attention of people all over the world.
The story of the movie revolves around a shy and timid young Gideonette who grows up fearing the curse of the name Gideon de la Rey, her father. Gideon tries to allay her fears that each one bearing that name in history has succumbed to a freak accident at a young age. In trying to prove that the curse is nothing more than fiction Gideon had named his daughter Gideonette. Yet in fact, it only served to strengthen the myth and the fear within his daughter. That fear was realized when Gideon passed away suddenly.
To get her away from the curse Gideonette’s mom sent her to live with her grandparents. It is there where she meets young Bhubesi – an ‘astronaut’ in training. He also happens to be deaf.
In one sense it is such an honest South African tale with stories of deep rooted family beliefs and in this case a curse that has trapped one family in a never ending spiral of fear.
Perhaps I am reading too much into it but this story can also be interpreted as an allegory of a woman’s struggle in the art world. Her struggle to find her voice and to succeed beyond all expectation, and in a sense Hanneke embodies that and perhaps unfairly is an example for other female creatives to follow.
Hanneke herself embodied the fear that Gideonette struggles with and she admitted as much that growing up she was a very fearful child so for her this is not only a personal story but somewhat cathartic as she relives her tentative disposition as a child.
She is not that timid child anymore as her story-telling abilities have given her a wonderful platform to inspire so many with her view on life. In a relatively short space of time she has grown in leaps and bounds. For those who followed her blog Handsome No surprise that she was awarded the most creative female in 2013 and after given a wonderful opportunity, she exploded on the film circuit with the release of her first feature length film, Jimmy in Pienk.
Her film credits also include the movie, ‘Saving Norman’ which starred Willem Dafoe and was produced by the now disgraced Kevin Spacey.
The movie has been selected to be a part of 14 International film festivals and has already been acknowledged for being well-directed. The film’s screenplay has been praised, and so has the portrayal of the characters by a host of experienced and new actors. Do not miss this one.
In our discussion Hanneke reminded me that when it comes to South African movies the opening weekend is crucial for a film to succeed. If it is well supported the movie will remain on circuit for longer, allowing more to see and enjoy it, thereby also strengthening our film industry. But the window period is so unforgiving in this highly competitive industry. One weekend is all you have to make a difference.
So please, let’s not play lip service to our art, let us rather go out and support our creatives!