'n Paw Paw vir my Darling

2016-01-08 09:22

What it's about:

Pawpaw Vir My Darling is a story filled with humour, pathos and razor-sharp social commentary on the life of a white Afrikaans family and their mongrel dog in a down-at-heel suburb. The central theme deals with their desperate, sometimes clumsy and strange attempts to adapt and survive the 'post 1994 era. Included is the individual family members' struggle to come to terms with themselves and their circumstances and maintain peace amongst each other, their neighbours and the authorities. Through the eyes of the Beeslaer family's dog Tsjaka, one follows the struggle to adapt and accept the ever present hope of a better life.

What we thought:

If you ever wanted to see South African white online commentary in visual form, this is the film for you. ‘n Paw Paw vir my Darling attempts to explore the identity crisis that many white South Africans faced in the post-Apartheid period and their attempts to adapt to a new political and economic situation. However, the crass political incorrectness and "kommin" exaggeration makes for an extremely classless film which has lost its humour.
The story focuses on the Beeslaer family of lower income suburb Damnville, as seen through they eyes of their dog Tjaka. Set during the presidency of Thabo Mbeki, they navigate the many challenges they face with a drink in one hand and the other hand ready to give a "klap". Soufie (Deirdré Wolhuter) is stressed out over her three children – Mabel (Jana Nortier) who lazily hangs around the house unemployed; Elvis (Hannes Brümmer) and his indian girlfriend; and Rusty (Martelize Kolver) who is looking for money to rent a place for her and her girlfriend. The antics of her husband Vleis (Deon Lotz) add to this stress as he’s either fighting with his neighbours, the bank or the law.

Although directed and adapted from Jeanne Goosen’s book by film veteran Koos Roets (Faan se Trein) who is renowned for his work, the translation from book to screen lost out on something that one can’t quite grasp. Although I haven’t read the book, the story somehow got lost between trying to bring its point across through crass and slapstick skits (a lot of brawls and colourful cursing) and making a strong emotional commentary on whiteness in the new South Africa. The sparse interactions between the Beeslaers and people of colour (who hardly had any real characterisation or dialogue) had some validity in real life, but it lacked gravitas. Most annoying was the dog Tjaka, which I could easily see working as a literary tool, but on-screen it was unnatural and forced narration that didn’t gel with the plot. 

As for its technical strength, it had shoddy editing and some of the worst sound mixing I’ve ever heard in a film, so jarring that even a novice audience would cringe. There’s a trend in Afrikaans films where production value is treated as secondary to content, and although that can work if your content is strong and stand on its own, but with a script like ‘n Paw Paw vir my Darling, high production value would have made it incredibly more tolerable.

Although I did not enjoy the film in the slightest, one can give credit to the actors, who wasn’t at fault for the incongruity of the script and plot. They performed in the parameters of their characters, and although the emotional outburst of Soufie looked completely out of place in the film, Wolhuter gave a brilliant performance. If only it was in a different movie.

A film that fell flat with its social commentary, ‘n Paw Paw vir my Darling is a slapstick montage of whites trying to navigate between their internalised prejudices and their newfound guilt, but without that academic trimmings. If you want to support local, rather spend money on the book than the movie ticket.

Read more on:    deon lotz  |  movies

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.