Free State

2016-04-29 13:20

What it's about:

A random act of kindness sparks a forbidden love affair between a white woman and an Indian man during the late 1970s.

What we thought:

Many a story about Apartheid has been told over the years, and almost from every possible angle. But it’s not every day that a story comes along that gives a glimpse into the everyday life of the different cultures that had to live through Apartheid.

Free State tells a tale of forbidden love between white, Christian Wits student Jeanette (Nicola Breytenbach) and an Indian, Hindu man, Ravi (Andrew Govender). The movie takes us on their journey as they meet by chance, as they plan secret get-togethers and as they defy their parents who warn them against their doomed relationship.

The movie is told from Jeanette’s perspective, and as the first picture of actual Apartheid footage is projected onto the screen, we hear Jeanette’s voice telling us exactly what Apartheid was and how it was against the law for a white person to have any sort of relationship with a person who didn’t have white skin. This explanation will undoubtedly be very informative for an international audience who might not know exactly what Apartheid was and that it was written into our law.

Through Jeanette’s eyes we get to see the harsh realities of Apartheid. How Indians, or any person of colour for that matter, wasn’t allowed to be outside after dark, how the security police could suspect someone and find them guilty without them having done anything wrong, and how all of this, to her, was completely wrong. 

We also get to see inside the different religions of the different cultures presented in the film. Jeanette’s dad is a Dutch Reformed pastor, played by Deon Lotz, while Ravi and his family are Hindu’s. And while they might have different religions, their advice to their children is very much universal: do what makes you happy, and if it doesn’t work out I will be here for you.

While Nicola and Andrew look beautiful on screen, their portrayal of star-crossed lovers unfortunately doesn’t leave much to the imagination. At times awkward and unsure of how to express their emotions, the characters of Jeanette and Ravi could have been more believable. This being said though, the supporting cast totally make up for it as well as the cinematography and detail in costumes and sets.

As far as supporting cast goes, Deon Lotz, Paul Eilers, Leleti Khumalo, Rolanda Marais and Hemali Juta-Pillay all deserve a mention. Believable and honest, their portrayal of their characters truly stand out. 

The film has also won numerous awards for its cinematography at international film festivals and this is all thanks to Director of Photography, Tom Marais. The landscape of the Free State and the towns of Memel and New Castle have never looked this beautiful. And as far as costumes and set goes, it is spot on. From the safari suits to the houses and cars, it’s the 70s all right.

Whether you were affected by Apartheid or not, there is something for everyone to take away from this film. Bravery, respect and a will to fight for what is right, this film is a testimony of just how far we’ve come as a nation.

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