American producer explains why he decided to make an Afrikaans film in SA

2014-04-02 07:00
Johannesburg - A giant leap forward in Afrikaans filmmaking, Die Windpomp represents a rather odd goal set by its American producer Chris Roland (Stander, Hotel Rwanda).

From the beginning, even though he didn’t speak a word of Afrikaans, with the exception of 'n Boer maak 'n plan, Roland wanted to make an Afrikaans film that was highly entertaining and also respected the Afrikaans community.

“The Afrikaans people are huge movie fans, and I eat, breath and sleep films. After extensive research and interviews, we learned that the Afrikaans community wanted movies that were ‘Hollywood’ quality but in Afrikaans, meaning a film with a good story, not too heavy, not too slapstick, and with high production values. So we set out to give them what they wanted with the lofty goal of making the best Afrikaans film they had ever seen.”

But Roland was finding it difficult to find the right story until he met Die Windpomp’s writer/director Etienne Fourie while guest lecturing at AFDA film school. Fourie was in his fourth and final year and was developing the short version of Die Windpomp as his graduate film, a kind of thesis for filmmakers.

Later that year, Roland was invited back to judge the student films. "I watched something like 20 short films over the weekend. I was blurry eyed by the end of the second day. And then the lights dimmed and another film began. Within minutes, in a theatre filled to capacity, you could hear a pin drop. This was the first time I saw the story for Die Windpomp unfold. At the end of it, there and then I told AFDA’s owner Garth Holmes that I wanted to option the story and develop it into a feature length film."

Asked if he found it difficult developing the script in a language he did not understand, Roland explained that Fourie wrote drafts in both Afrikaans and English. "The hard part was grappling with certain words and expressions that meant one thing in English and had a whole other meaning in Afrikaans. I had to learn how Afrikaans people think as much as how they speak. Afrikaans is a very expressive language, more so than English."

Roland also added that the Afrikaans spoken in Cape Town is vastly different than the Afrikaans spoken in Pretoria, and that certain words and phrases were hotly debated between people from both.

On set during the production Roland says he was able to follow the dialogue because he knew the story, and he knew that acting was more than words. "Good acting is about subtext. The spoken word is less important than the character’s intention and emotional state. That becomes so much clearer when watching a film in a language you don’t understand. It made watching the performances on set very engaging."

Roland’s next film? Dias Santana, an action film set in Angola and South Africa and shot in Portuguese, English, Xhosa and Afrikaans. "That’s going to be a real brain buster!"

Die Windpomp releases nationwide in South Africa on 25 April.

Watch the trailer here:

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