For more information view the Jakhalsdans website on www.jakhalsdansmovie.co.za
Scroll down for interview with Deon Meyer
South African film fans have a lot to look forward to in 2010, starting with the release of Oscar-nominated director Darrel Roodt's new film, Jakhalsdans. Roodt is best known for Yesterday, the first ever feature length film in isiZulu, which was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film in 2005.
Set and filmed in the picturesque town of Loxton in the Northern Cape, Jakhalsdans stars popular local singers Theuns Jordaan and Elizma Theron in the lead roles, and boasts a screenplay written by the widely admired Afrikaans crime novelist Deon Meyer. It also stars South African model Christina Storm and the talented and versatile Neil Sandilands.
"This is Afrikaans drama in the tradition of Die Storie van Klara Viljee (1992), Nag van die 19de (1992) and Paljas (1998)," says Roodt. "I've always had a great love for the remote, brooding landscapes of the Karoo. The film provided a wonderful opportunity for me to work with stars like Theuns Jordaan and Elizma Theron and to create a love story that is quintessentially South African. It's something completely different from the comedies which have dominated the Afrikaans language local film industry over the past few years."
Jakhalsdans tells the story of a female teacher, Mara Malan (Elizma Theron), who has spent her last savings on a house in Loxton so that she can raise her five-year-old daughter, Mia (Janke Bruwer), in a safe and friendly country environment. But on their arrival, Mara discovers that the town's primary school is going to close down, unless she can raise R500 000 within three weeks.
It's the local musician-cum-handyman, Dawid le Fleur (Neil Sandilands), who gives Mara the idea to hold a music festival, but she has to find a way to get the country's top artists to play if she hopes to attract a crowd. What Mara doesn't know is that her reclusive, surly neighbour is actually the celebrated singer-composer Ruan Landman (Theuns Jordaan). He has come to Loxton to get away from the blinding spotlight of fame and to escape the people who only want to enrich themselves through him. Little Mia sparks Ruan's creativity and he starts composing again, but a series of misunderstandings create serious conflict between him and Mara. The two first have to learn a couple of valuable life lessons before they can save the school, and acknowledge their love.
The idea for the script came to Meyer in 2005, after he had been to a music festival in Bloemfontein, where he had seen Valiant Swart, Koos Kombuis, David Kramer, Gert Vlok Nel en Theuns Jordaan in concert. "They all have such different styles, but together on stage they were phenomenal," says Meyer. "I knew there had to be a way to capture this in the form of a story. As I made my way back to the Cape, the tale began to unfold. Even then I knew it was going to be a screenplay and not a novel or a short story."
The film includes a brand new track by Theuns Jordaan, who has taken the South African music scene by storm with his interpretation of old Afrikaans songs and his own original numbers, both of which have made him a hit with fans.
Jakhalsdans is produced by Anton Ernst, who was also behind Number 10, Lullaby and Surviving Evil. He is currently working on vampire flick Being V written and to be directed by David Bourla (Push) and horror film Swimmers to be directed by Andrew Kyriakou.
Collaboration between the writers, producers and directors of Jakhalsdans is not unknown, as Welela Studios and Darrell Roodt worked together on the Afrikaans movie "Meisie", which won the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) Afrikaans Movie of the Year 2008. Presently, Darrel Roodt and Diony Kempen, Executive Producer of Welela Studios, are in the process of writing the screenplay for Deon Meyer's crime novel "Heart of the Hunter" and a gritty television drama series "Snake Park".
DANIEL DERCKSEN SHARES A FEW THOUGHT WITH DEON MEYER
Tell me about Jakhalsdans, how did it happen?
My wife and I attended a concert in Bloemfontein in 2004, at which David Kramer and Theuns Jordaan performed their music. There was real magic in this unique combination, and driving back to Cape Town the next day, I tried to figure out how one could translate that magic to a story. By the time we got home, I more or less had the script in my head.
In 2008, I was doing research for my novel '13 Hours', and had the privilege of interviewing Theuns as part of the research. We subsequently became friends, and some months later, I mentioned to him in passing that I have a movie idea which could only work if he starred in it. Theuns's response was positive, and I finally wrote the script (which was tremendous fun).
Then came the laborious and often frustrating problem of trying to find the money. Finally Diony Kempen and Darrell Roodt heard about our quest, and came on board, and linked up with producer Anton Ernst.
The movie was shot on location in Loxton in the Upper Karoo in October of 2009.
Is the film strictly for Afrikaans speaking audiences?
Good heavens, no.
Are you a fan of Afrikaans music and did this serve as an inspiration for writing the film?
Yes, I am in awe of the explosion of creativity and talent on the broad South African music scene, Afrikaans included. But it was the combination of Kramer and Jordaan that was the real inspiration. They are both geniuses with very different styles, but when they performed together, something rare and beautiful happened.
Is this your first screenplay?
I've written two TV series for KykNet - Orion and Transito, but Jakhalsdans is my first movie script.
Was it difficult to write and how did you approach the writing process?
Taking time off from writing novels, the Jakhalsdans script felt like a holiday, perhaps because it is bright and breezy, and so different from the crime fiction I usually write. It almost wrote itself, and was a really fun process.
I approached in the way I approach all my writing - with great respect for the prospective viewer / reader. Entertainment and the story are crucial.
Were you involved in the filming process?
We visited the set in Loxton for a few days for the honor of seeing the master, Darrell Roodt, at work. The great thing about a movie (as opposed to the very lonely process of writing a novel) is that it is a collaborative process, where a team of people come together to add their creativity. The end result is the sum of it all, and it was beautiful to watch.
What do you think makes a great story?
I wish there was a recipe. I tend to agree with William Goldman, who said 'nobody knows anything' - and 'structure is everything'. My best shot at an answer would be: If you have interesting and likeable characters who succeed despite the staggering odds, you have the makings of a great story.
What do you think are the ingredients of a great South African story?
Story is a universal language and concept. There is no difference between a great American or British or Chinese or South African story, but for the setting.
Your views on the film industry in South Africa?
I think we have lots or brilliant and talented people, and, of course, too little money to make the great movies we can. Having said that, if one looks at local films in the past year or two, and rumors of things to come, I think we are on the verge of great things.
Any tips, advice for budding screenwriters?
Read, read, read. Find all the scripts of all the great movies, and read them, study them …
Where did it all start for you, that moment that you knew you were going to be a writer?
I'm still aspiring to be a writer, but I can tell you when I knew I wanted to become a storyteller: I was about nine years old, had just finished another amazing book, and found this overwhelming urge to, one day, tell stories that would give other people as much pleasure as I was getting from books.
Why do you think the work a writer puts into his work is so unappreciated and sometimes ignored?
I must admit that I haven't had that experience yet, so I'm not qualified to comment.
PROUDLY SOUTH AFRICAN FILMMAKING