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Greg Kriek on 'The Recce'


Greg Kriek is a gung-ho South African actor and producer, who never shies away from a challenge and gets stuck in. One of the hardest working film professionals out there, he's constantly honing his craft, pushing the limits and committing himself to the art of film-making. When he's not on set or working his magic, he's preparing for his next role. A consummate professional and a gentleman - it's always a pleasure interviewing the rising SA star.

His latest film, a war drama called The Recce (opens nationwide 28 September), directed by Ferdinand Van Zyl, finds him getting down and dirty in a physically demanding leading role. Spling caught up with Kriek to find out more...

 

How did you come to be involved in this project?

I got the leading role in The Recce through the good old traditional process of auditioning - however it was a grueling waiting period of almost 2 months before they officially confirmed me. Between being optioned and booked really is actor's hell for so many (laughs).

Can you tell us a bit about your character - was there any resonance for you?

I play Henk Viljoen- a recce who is wrongfully declared KIA behind enemy lines. Abandoned by his superiors; it’s a race for survival in which his mental and physical abilities are pushed to their limits, as he navigates his way through the treacherous Angolan war zone in an effort to make his way home to his loved ones.

It was a tremendous honour to get to play Henk - I really resonated with his tenacity, his dogged perseverance, his deep sense of duty as well as his inner struggle of pursuing his passion and being with his loved ones at the same time, specifically the fact that sometimes these often are in conflict with one another.

The Recce - Henk Viljoen

How did you prepare for the role?

Ah man this was hands down the most physical preparation I have ever needed to do for any character - I went to a special boot camp with MILSPEC where they taught me tracking, special forces weapons handling, basic bush craft and sniper training.

In addition to this, I received horse riding lessons, stunt training and I also spoke to a lot of ex recces off-the-record and heard their harrowing stories, as well as family members of those who served.

I also read as many books as I could leading up to the film and watched numerous doccies and movies in between bulking up at the gym.

What did you learn from your time shooting The Recce? Would you be interested in doing more war films of this nature, why?

It was one of the most rewarding experiences to research, learn, immerse myself in the history and discuss all areas related to becoming and being a RECCE and a soldier.

I absolutely love this genre and really would love to do more films of this nature. I think so many men and women of war from across the globe have been misunderstood and have chosen to remain silent owing to various factors. I think film will continue to be a powerful catalyst in bringing about conversation and ultimately healing.

It looks like a labour of love involving blood, sweat, mud and tears - what was the most challenging aspect of your performance?

Firstly, my biggest challenge was to do as much research and preparation for the role - out of respect to all the recces and men that served their country. I wanted to bring the truest portrayal of a recce that has ever hit the big screen to date.

Beyond that my body was really put on the line - by doing most of my own stunts, dragging myself through rivers, mountainous snake-infested terrain, whilst truthfully incorporating my training in tracking, bush craft, weapons handling, horse riding and intel gathering. Beyond the physical challenge - to also truthfully immerse myself in the mental state that a recce or soldier truly needs - in order to survive in the bush.

The Recce - Henk Viljoen

What is your most cherished memory from ‘The Recce’?

It’s too tough to single out a specific memory as there were so many- but what I cherished so much was the camaraderie we formed as a film crew and cast under very tough and brave filming conditions. I think all the location moves, living and working together daily for over 6 weeks (in a war zone) brought us all together in a very deep way. We all knew that we were dealing with sensitive subject matter that needed to be treated with respect.

What do you think audiences will take away from the experience?

For audiences I would say that the movie is relevant and honestly explores how the war and the era - affected all of us no matter our gender or race. The one thing I really respect about the film is that there is no political agenda and I love the balance of how it explores how both men and women were affected by the war. It is both universal and local in that sense - and I think that we are finally ready for this film, which is told in a way South Africa hasn’t seen before.

Viewers can expect to see a raw and honest survival drama in the context of an action packed thrilling war epic. It showcases well-developed characters both male and female and delicately handles this sensitive subject matter that will hopefully spark conversation within families across the country.

 
Two Acclaimed South African Films Coming Home


Die Stropers (The Harvesters) and An Act Of Defiance aka Bram Fischer, two European/South African co-productions from Spier Films, will be premiering at this year’s Silwerskerm Fees in Cape Town. Having had a successful festival run, garnering critical acclaim and scooping a number of festival awards for their exploration of the Afrikaner identity, they're coming home.

Die Stropers, directed by Etienne Kallos and starring Juliana Venter and Morne Visser, received a standing ovation at this year’s 71st Cannes Film Festival as part of the Un Certain Regard selection. The atmospheric film is set in a white, conservative, patriarchal rural community in the eastern Free State. Two stepbrothers, a teenage misfit and a hardened orphan become embroiled in a power struggle for heritage and parental love.

The Harvesters

Kallos’ screenplay won the Gan Foundation’s 'Prix opening Shot Prize’ for best screenplay at Cannes and the Mahindra ‘Global Filmmaker Award’ at Sundance before the film even went into production. Kallos says he wanted to explore adolescence and tell a story about the first generation to be born completely outside of the Apartheid system, alienated and burdened by the weight of post-colonialism.

Spier's second film, An Act of Defiance, directed by Jean van de Velde and starring Peter Paul Muller and Antoinette Louw, is a rousing historical drama and political thriller based on the real events of the pivotal 1963 Rivonia Trial. While Nelson Mandela and his compatriots face charges of conspiracy to commit sabotage and treason, white Afrikaner lawyer Bram Fischer risks everything to defend and save them from the death penalty.

An Act of Defiance - Bram Fischer

Both films "have the potential for both critical and commercial success internationally and at home while remaining dedicated to fostering South Africa’s unique talent, stories and voices", according to Spier Films chief executive, Michael Auret.

 
David Cronenberg Discusses the Death of Cinema


David Cronenberg - the critically acclaimed Canadian director behind such brilliant dramas Crash, The Fly and Existenz - told a packed audience at the Neuchatel International Fantasy Film Festival in Switzerland that the death of cinema has already arrived. The 75-year-old auteur, who was participating as part of a Masterclass at the festival, talked at length about the growing powers of streaming sites like Netflix and the troubles of working in Hollywood. Discussing his growing disillusionment with the cinema experience,  Cronenberg said: "the big screen is shattering into a million small screens” and “film-making is not dead, but cinemas are no longer the cathedral where you commune with other people.”

David Cronenberg

Viewership habits

Cronenberg's statements come amidst growing turmoil plaguing the film industry. Directors such as Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino and Ridley Scott have all voiced their fears about the future decline of the art form. Whilst more and more people prefer to get their entertainment via platforms such as YouTube, Netflix and Hulu,  Cronenberg is adamant that this transformation is a positive one and should be embraced, saying, "cinema is changing, evolving as well." Netflix has become a global powerhouse in terms of its influence. Since starting out in 1997, it has gained more than 117 million subscribers across nearly every country in the world, amidst a backdrop of the lowest movie theatre attendance in the US and Canada since 1992, with 1.24 billion tickets sold in 2017.

Films like the documentary Jim and Andy, the Korean fantasy film Okja and even the Daniel Negreanu biopic, KidPoker, present a diverse portfolio of viewing and appeal to audiences who want to enjoy flicks at home instead of heading to the cinema.

On working with Netflix

Cronenberg told the audience that he has signalled his intentions of potentially working with Netflix in the future, comparing the act of working with Netflix to that of creating a novel. Of his potential endeavours with Netflix, Cronenberg said, "the cinematic equivalent of the novel is a Netflix series that goes on for maybe 5-7 years.... and that it is possible that instead of writing a novel I would do a series for Netflix." TV shows like Stranger Things, The Handmaid's Tale and Orange is the New Black have been lauded for their willingness to explore deeper character arcs and story lines over many episodes. Allowing directors like Cronenberg creative freedom on a scale not seen before.

It's also no surprise that Cronenberg might be headed to Netflix, at the very same Masterclass he openly discussed his struggles of working within Tinseltown and the system, even talking about his director friend Martin Scorsese who till this day still finds it hard to make movies in the Hollywood system.  Cronenberg's last film, 2014’s Maps To The Stars, perfectly encapsulated the director’s state of mind. A film that predated the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and presents a rather bleak vision of the industry.  Cronenberg's remarks remind us of the dramatic shift taking place in the cinema landscape, a place where for over a century billions of moviegoers would enjoy the sights and sounds of moving pictures. Now, only time will tell whether cinema will stick around or be replaced by the small screen.

 
Spling's Top 3 - Cape Union Mart's 'Adventure Film Challenge' 2018


The Adventure Film Challenge hosted and run by Cape Union Mart saw more than 50 short film submissions this year, about 300% up from 2017. In previous years, the film competition was open to amateur filmmakers only. This year, the Adventure Film Challenge opened to professional local filmmakers too, which saw a major improvement in the quality of the average short film. The winning short film receives R10,000 in cash, K-Way gear to the value of R5,000 and gets screened at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in Cape Town between 26 October and 4 November.

Adventure Film Challenge

The judging panel event at Cape Union Mart's head office in Cape Town, saw eleven of the best submissions being assessed by 20 judges handpicked from within the film industry and outdoor community, evaluated on a score sheet that covered various aspects of the film-making process including: writing, story, creativity, originality, cinematography, editing, sound design and authenticity.

From downhill skateboarding to whitewater canoeing, the adventure films covered a number of adventure sports. Moving from inspirational character portraits and manifestos to water conservation, there was a variety of short films ranging from inspirational biographical drama to lighthearted comedy. Some were short and sweet, checking in at two minutes while others pushed towards the maximum duration of 5 minutes.

Spling attended the judging event, having advised on the score sheet and gave the panel some tips on what to look out for in assessing the films. From the post-film discussion the panel presented a number of insightful points, offering incisive opinions on where the short films could have done better and praising the filmmakers who had done an outstanding job. The cinematography was generally good, taking full advantage of South Africa's beautiful locations with many filmmakers adopting a narration format. While some of the writing was cliched, the level of film-making was generally good. Several of the films had the subjects narrating their own films, which presented some problems in terms of how their voice-overs translated.

The storytelling was quite mixed with some stories failing to capture the audience's attention beyond the visuals. The filmmakers that created compelling and engaging stories made it easier for judges to forgive the technical glitches. Then, some of the short films struggled to follow-through... either feeling anti-climactic, pointless or not keeping story or genre focus. The sound also divided the good from great with some productions undervaluing the sound design component from foley work to the quality of the voice recording.

#1 THE LANDSCAPE HUNTER

The Landscape Hunter is a story about Thomas Ferreira, a photographer who has traveled the world looking for the perfect photo. Casey Crafford's beautifully photographed short film follows his journey in South Africa, adopting an otherworldliness as he traverses several landscapes in a drought-stricken Western Cape to uncover a lost remnant. A pulsating soundtrack and dust land horizons give the film a sci-fi quality... powered by enigmatic visuals and a curious narration moving from the character's quest to overarching concerns affecting the region.

#2 SHE IS SOMETHING FIERCE

Bouldering is an up-and-coming rock climbing sport, which is explored in greater detail in She is Something Fierce. Scaling difficult rock formations and artificial climbing walls without harnesses, this gritty short film follows dedicated boulderer, Zoe Duby, who narrates a story about her passion for the sport, the hard training involved and the nature of bouldering through footage of her in action. Covering a number of popular bouldering spots in and around the Cape Town region, this tough-as-nails woman literally gets to grips with the rigours and perseverance involved in a sleek introduction to the sport and a compelling character portrait.

#3 NICK

Nick is a character portrait of a young downhill skateboarder. Engaging, honest and disarmingly candid, the passionate and committed skater boy speaks of his dedication and love for skateboarding. From surgeries to scars, we learn of the dangers he's endured and his persistence to say true to himself. Nick talks about the sport, his gear and features some sleek footage of him in action across Cape Town. Nick's upfront style and natural charm carries the film, offering some funny remarks and inspiration to get involved!

 
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