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Top Ten Movies with... Anel Alexander


Anel Alexander is an award-winning South African actress and producer, whose range and series of nuanced performances aren't just turning heads, but making her a respected and highly sought-after talent.

Anel started her professional career while studying Drama at the University of Pretoria, appearing in a number of musicals including: The Witness, Jesu - An African Portrait and Blondes, before being snapped up to play Liesl in local TV drama, 7de LaanWhile Alexander has a love for theatre and musicals, she's most passionate about film, a medium that she's conquering both on-screen as an actress and behind-the-scenes with her production company.

She co-starred in Discreet, a stage-to-film adaptation, played the leading lady in the "romcom" box office sensation Semi-Soet, recently won a kykNET Silverskermfees award for her supporting role in Faan se Trein and is set to star in and produce Sink. Alexander's company, Scramble Productions, is gearing up to go into production for this hard-hitting drama about a Mozambican maid working in Johannesburg, who is forced to make a life-changing decision after her daughter drowns.

While she's at the forefront of the South African film industry, Anel makes a point of finding a balance between work and play. We caught up with the talented actress and producer to get her Top Ten Movies interview...

"In my next life I will be a Broadway musical theatre star."

I can't watch movies without...

- At home I can't watch movies without my hunky husband, actor James Alexander, my 2 doggies Jozi and Oscar... yes, we called our dog Oscar so that we could tell our friends we have an Oscar, and a fluffy blanket. But when I go to the cinema it's all about the popcorn!

Which famous people share your birthday?

- After Googling famous birthdays on 26 November, the only name I recognized was Tina Turner. So apparently not many famous people were born on the 26th of November, or I'm just not smart or cool enough to recognize their names. Oh, and Charles M. Schultz, the guy that created Peanuts. That’s worth a mention.

What is the first film you remember watching?

- The first film I remember watching was Bambi. Actually, I don’t really remember watching the film but I do remember being profoundly profoundly upset about the fact that Bambi's mother died.

What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

- It is a local movie and since I hope to have a long and prosperous career as an actress and a producer in the SA film industry, I would rather not mention any names...

Which movies have made you tearful?

- The first movie I remember crying in was Steel Magnolias. But after that, my top tearjerker is definitely Hachiko. If you are a dog person, you will get it. That movie broke me for days. I remember being at the gym the next day and just starting to bawl. I don't even cry in front of people I know! Had to SMS a fellow dog lover to get some sympathy. To this day when I see it on DSTV, I immediately have to change the channel!

Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?

- Definitely James Alexander. He has acted with Claire Danes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Charles Dance, Andrew Lincoln to name a few. So by association I would like to believe that I've "met" all those movie stars.

What's your favourite movie line?

- "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get." – Forrest Gump

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- I shot a chip commercial in Germany a few years ago and the whole week the Austrian make-up artist and the Italian wardrobe guy would tell me how much I looked like "Carly Saron". So they kept calling me "Carly Saron" all the time. Later in the week I figured out that they were actually saying "Charlize Theron", so I guess I would get old Charlize to play me.

If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?

- It would be about a prostitute and a conservative young man talking about love, life and faith and honesty and... wait, I've made that one. Uhm, it would be a fun "romcom" about a girl hiring a fake fiancé to save her job... also been there done that. Can't say too much about our third that's going into pre-production soon, but the dream film I want to produce one day: An Afrikaans magic realism film. Think Amelie but shot in the Karoo or some arb town like Koffiefontein with people speaking the 'taal'.

Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...

Movies are my happy place and I love too many movies to choose just 10, so I've tried to categorize them to make choosing a bit easier.

- Life is Beautiful (Foreign Film) ...I do what I do because I believe in the power of the medium of media, whether that be movies, theatre, magazines, radio or whatever. I believe in the power that media has to reach people, to challenge audiences and to spread and change ideologies. I have always had a desire to use that power for good, and that is exactly what a film like Life is Beautiful did. The message is profound, the acting and execution exquisite and no person with a heart that has seen that movie was left untouched.

- Amelie (Magic Realism) ...I love the genre, the quirkiness and the language. I think it was the first time I was fully exposed to magical realism and I was hooked from the first frame. I knew that one day I wanted to make something like THAT!

- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Genre-defying) ...I remember watching this film and being so inspired by the possibilities that the medium of film opened up. The magic of making movies lies in the "what if" and this film used that device in such a poignant way.

- Sound of Music (Classic Film) ...is probably the film I have seen the most in my life. I want to say hundreds of times, but my husband always says I exaggerate, so let's just say as kids we watched it until the tape was stretched. I absolutely love musicals! In my next life I will be a Broadway musical theatre star. Sound of Music is the perfect, classical musical and therefore the perfect classic film.

- August: Osage County (Adaptation) ...I have not been so completely absorbed by a film in a long time as I was with this. The script, the casting, the performances, every element of this film was carefully crafted. The ensemble was so powerful it left me dazed for days afterwards. It reminded me of why I became an actress. And then of course the fact that it was mainly a female ensemble makes it extra cool in my books. I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about Hollywood (and South Africa) being male dominated: male writers that write for male actors living in a male world... My mom’s a psychologist. I’m ok now.

- Chicago (Musical) ...notice the musical theme coming through? I literally belt out every single song when watching this. I want to be Velma or Roxy or even the girl third from the left so badly! The production design and costumes and just the way the musical was adapted for screen was brilliant. I've seen the musical on Broadway and in South Africa, and the film version does the stage show absolute justice and more.

- 21 Grams (Drama-Thriller) ...James and I went to visit a friend in LA that was studying at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. It was Oscar season and the students got to attend lectures by the 5 directors nominated for Best Directing. We were fortunate enough to hear Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu speak about 21 Grams in person. By the time we eventually got to see the film, I was just blown away.

- Semi-Soet & Discreet (Local) ...these are my babies and any mother would be wrong if she didn't list them as her 'favourites'. Discreet was made at a time when nobody was really making films independently and it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do... until we made Semi-Soet! But I’m incredibly proud of what both films achieved in the local film industry, raising the bar and moving boundaries for young, new film-makers to come.

- The Incredibles, Despicable Me, Finding Nemo (Animation) ...I'm a sucker for animation, the humor and life lessons that get portrayed to young and old through this timeless medium... just gets me every time.

- The Shawshank Redemption (Drama) ...enough said.

- La Vie En Rose ...and because I'm a girl I insist on having a freebie! Marion Cotillard's performance in this film has to be one of the most worthy Oscar-winning Best Actress awards ever!

Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.

 
Top Ten Movies with... Larry Soffer


Larry Soffer Magician

Larry Soffer is a breathtakingly brilliant Cape Town-born mentalist, who pursued his childhood dream of becoming a magician when he enrolled at the College of Magic at the age of 13. He was inspired by the charisma and showmanship of David Copperfield, graduating with top honours, earning a Silver Medallion after four years of studying the art of magic.

The young magician continued to work hard, performing at corporate and private events, sharpening his skills and picking up a number of national and international accolades in the process. Vegas magicians, Siegfried and Roy, were so impressed with Soffer that they awarded him The SARMOTI (Siegfried and Roy Masters of the Impossible), a bursary for his final year at the College of Magic in Cape Town.

Larry focussed his energy on mentalism or magic of the mind, which includes mind-reading, metal bending and telekinesis. This enabled him to bend spoons and forks, fix broken watches and even make light bulbs burst across television and radio. He's traveled far and wide, entertaining notable celebrities such as: Beyoncé and Jay-Z, the Prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Harry, Michael Johnson, Andie MacDowell, Ruby Wax, Mike and the Mechanics and Vinnie Jones.

In 2006, he performed at, and was inducted into the World Famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, a club with some of the most prestigious magicians of the world as its members, making him the only South African member to join this elite group. Other career highlights include: making the Voortrekker Monument disappear, working with the magical advisor and creator of Copperfield's best illusions and taking Uri Geller's achievements a step further by making light bulbs burst and TVs switch on via radio and telephone lines.

Having personally witnessed his magic up close and personal, with the bent coin and twisted spoon to prove it, Spling can attest to Soffer's spectacular mentalism as awe-inspiring and gob-smacking. As they say, seeing is believing, but in his own words... Larry wants people to believe to see. Cinema and magic have many parallels when it comes to illusion, which is why we thought it was essential we bring you Larry's Top Ten Movies.

You can catch him at Cafe Roux on 27 August, 2014 and at Sea Point Primary on 30 August. Visit larrysoffer.com for more information and be sure to watch Larry in action in the video below.

"I even remember singing to the moon as a little boy..."

I can't watch movies without...

- ...popcorn, and I don't mean the microwave kind, the kind you make with kernels. I am kind of an expert by now.

Which famous people share your birthday?

- I have to be honest, I had to Google that, but I was quite disappointed to find out that there weren't more well known celebrities that share their birthday with me. The best one was Katy Perry. Oh, and Pablo Picasso.

What is the first film you remember watching?

- I think it was E.T., I'm not sure if that was the first movie I ever watched but it was definitely the first one that made an impression on me. The reason being that I thought it was so realistic and above that, a really touching story. I have always been fascinated by the possibility of life beyond this planet. I even remember singing to the moon as a little boy.

What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

- I think we all will remember this one. This movie freaked us all out as children; so much so that I had to shower with my legs spread far apart so that he couldn’t come through the drain and get me. I think you know which one I am talking about. Yes, IT, another good old '80s favourite.

What movies have made you tearful?

- Where do I start?! I tear up so quickly it's embarrassing. Just call me a softy but anything with an inspirational message and an emotional story line gets me balling my eyes out. If I had to name a few I would have to go with, Cinderella Man, Real Steel, We Bought a Zoo and Avatar.

Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?

- Does Beyonce count? I performed for her and JZ at their private party when they visited Cape Town. I have also performed for Luke Perry from Beverly Hills 90210, Bryan Brian from the movie Cocktail, as well as Vinnie Jones from Gone in 60 Seconds.

What's your favourite movie line?

- "All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it." ~ We Bought a Zoo

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- Tom Cruise! Definitely! I just think he's such a great actor and people say that I look like him. Don't you agree?

If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?

- That one is way too easy. It will be about magic.

Larry Soffer - Top Ten Movies


Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...

- Man of Steel ...I love Superman’s strength and his courage to do what is right even when he is betrayed by the people he helps. He has the strength to see past their shortcomings and still care for them.

- Transformers ...these massive beings in steel bodies have the heart of a human and so much care. They are colossal and powerful and even then they welcome and need the help of a little guy with lots of heart, who lacks fear in time of pressure.

- The Matrix ...I love the idea of this world being able to be decoded and the secrets being revealed if we could really see what is in front of us. This movie has great messages about how the answers to life are not in what we see but what is inside of us.

- The Avengers ...the movie is about hope, courage and being in the spirit of play whilst fighting the most intense battles. As superheroes they don't take life seriously even when the going gets tough.

- Avatar ...money and greed are seen to be the driving factors of destruction in our world and on the planet these people traveled to. Yet, one man can make a change for the better and save the goodness that exists within all of us and on this planet. In our history it has been single men and woman with great ideals and purpose to make a better world that have made the greatest changes, and this movie reminds us how we too can change the world if we are willing to find the courage within.

- A Knight's Tale ...I love this movie because it's a love story with action where a young boy named William, played by Heath Ledger, believes that the impossible is possible and that he can "Change his stars". He becomes a knight against opposition of the law, he rises to heights that no commoner ever managed and changes his stars.

- Hook ...the great thing about this movie is that Peter Panning has become a person who is a product of the world we live in. He has lost touch with the boy inside (Peter Pan) and has become cynical. He's forced to look at himself due to the threat of losing his family, he finally finds that boy inside and starts to believe in magic again giving him the freedom to be in control of life.

- Liar Liar ...this is a great comedy filled with laughter. It made me laugh over and over again and I love the strong message that comes through about how it's important to keep your word once given.

- Gladiator ...I love Gladiator because it's a movie about inner strength, courage and persistence. No matter what comes our way we have the strength to fight back and change our circumstances. In the movie he also had a purpose... righting the wrong done to him and his family... and that purpose drove him to be able to be triumphant!

- Bruce Almighty ...everyone would like more power and ability to control one's life and this movie gives the message that all the power you need exists within you right now, you just have to be willing to "be the change" you want to see in the world.

Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.

 
Carey McKenzie on 'Cold Harbour'


Carey McKenzie on Cold HarbourCarey McKenzie is the savvy South African writer-director behind noir crime thriller, Cold Harbour. After graduating from New York University, she geared up to direct her first film with the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Andie MacDowell and Jared Leto. While financing was secured, the project suffered a series of deal-breakers and McKenzie was left frustrated with looming credit card bills.

She was able to rise again. Through a series of on set jobs, she was able to assimilate crucial on-the-ground knowledge, observing the world and keeping her passion for cinema alive.

After directing an award-winning and thought-provoking documentary Original Child Bomb and writing ten screenplays, she was on-track to realising her long-awaited feature film and passion project, Cold Harbour.

McKenzie's film stars Tony Kgoroge, Fana Mokoena and Deon Lotz, and opens nationwide this Friday.

Cold Harbour exposes abalone smuggling, corrupt police officers and the Triads… what inspired the story?

I wanted to do a unique Cape Town story and turn the city and the harbour into characters. News stories about a syndicate kept catching my eye at the time. There would be a staged bust, where they would take the stock of abalone, followed by a public auction where it was bought back by someone in the organisation.

There was a big bust in Sun Valley, and that was really interesting to me, being such a residential area in the South Peninsula. Then, there's an environmental issue with the ocean's ecosystem being threatened with abalone poaching. What strikes me as a humanist, was the impact organised crime can have on a community, when the perlemoen goes out and the drugs come in.

The concept took when I was jogging along the coastal path between St James and Muizenberg and saw a man's severed leg on the rocks as other men with plastic bags were picking up bits. This wasn't train-related, apparently there's one corner along the train line where you can toss a body onto the rocks and if the tide is up, it'll be taken. The whole idea of a body on the beach… it's not a murder mystery, it's not really a whodunnit – it's just the trigger.

...and how much research went into this project?

When we started research on the gangs and Triads in Cape Town, I heard that there was a fairly interesting period in the late ‘90s, mid ‘90s where Cape Town harbour had just opened up and the police had no idea what the Chinese were doing here. They would find the body of a Chinese man, riddled with stab wounds. There was an internal Triads turf war going on, people were shooting each other with AK-47s and Cape Town harbour was open to the world. Organised crime had moved in and they were doing something that police didn't understand.

In terms of research, there was one particular police officer who was incredibly helpful at the time... he's very senior in the Western Cape now. He talked openly about what SAPS were doing, how they were sending police to Hong Kong to train and learn about the Triads. I also spoke to a couple of ex-poachers. If you're going to do a scene and stage something, you need to know how they fish. They shuck the perlemoen in the sea, because what you carry on land is meat, not the weight of the shell. If you've got someone running in the dark with a sack on their back, that makes a big difference. And things keep coming up... since I've been working on the film, they found this huge cache of perlemoen in Gugulethu.

You wrote the script with Tony Kgoroge in mind many years ago, why Tony?

I wanted to write a classic genre hero, a South African sexy, cool, dangerous and charismatic character with something a little bit dodgy in the undercurrent. I hadn't seen that in a South African film and obviously it's all about the actor. You need a Jamie Foxx or the old school Steve McQueen, who was really my inspiration. I saw Tony in Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon, which was really interesting because a lot of the film is a documentary and yet Tony's part is kind of docu-fiction. He's playing a character shot in a documentary way. He had this amazing screen presence and I think that that's what makes movie stars.

Like Jack Nicholson in Chinatown, everything he does is curiously interesting, he’s just someone that has this aliveness. Making a film about machismo, he needs to be a tough guy in that kind of classic “I don't really show my emotions” way and yet be accessible. Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood could stand there and do nothing, but there's this pathos in that and you feel the dilemma – the same goes for Tony.

How has the film evolved from the time you pitched it to Tony to now?

I think the heart of his character evolved in production, but I don't think it changed that much in the writing. Once we got to the set, he really made it his own. He was really committed about physical training in preparation for the film. He did some training at Dragon Power and dance classes like tango or salsa. That kind of physical awareness was part of his preparation and he's also a serious boxer. So that was his way in, inhabiting his body first in a way. That's not my nature, I’ll go at something intellectually, but I'm very grateful for that, because it suited the character so much better.

So I think things changed on the set. The action was always there, it's just his way of inhabiting it in the preparation. The other thing that changed the production in the run-up was casting Fana Mokoena opposite him. He and Fana have been friends for years, and without Fana we wouldn't have had these two characters with such a rich back story. That brought a whole wealth of subtext, you don't really need to spell out the back story, it's just there. We decided to do their scenes in Sotho, even though it's not a common Cape Town language, it seemed like the right decision.

Cold Harbour has some strong film noir elements, how did this affect your representation of Cape Town?

That was always the idea. When I saw we couldn't shoot on Anamorphic and that we had to shoot on Super 16 film. For me, what's amazing about noir is that it's about the darkness of the soul, existential angst in this moral dilemma, about a man who needs to get the money, like Double Indemnity. So the noir was always there... about corruption, this moral marshland, where it's not clear... who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, where the good guys do bad things and the bad guys do good things, that's my experience of life. We once did some word association and my word for Cape Town was ‘struggle’ because I think of the wind, and this is not the Mediterranean, the ocean's freezing, rough and full of sharks!

Carey McKenzie on set

Which films influenced your vision for Cold Harbour?

Yakuza Graveyard was a huge inspiration for this, 16mm handheld, you know 1975... it was amazing. Chinatown was a creative touchstone for Cold Harbour in the way it's about a particular city, deals with corruption, an outcast and has an uncompromising ending. Also, it's a very human story, not just a crime story, with the melodrama in the middle of a crime story.

You assembled some of South Africa’s finest actors, what was the vibe like on set?

They're all serious actors and they really came to it with commitment and put their heart and soul into it. Sometimes, the material’s quite heavy and they worked hard to get to the heart of it. At the same time, I think we enjoyed the experience because everyone was trying to do their best work.

Thomas Gumede was the curveball, on the first scene of the first day. The actors are mic-ed so between takes if you go the bathroom it’s like I've gone with you. So I hear Thomas chatting away to Tony, just basically trying to be pals on the first day. Thomas really respects Tony and Fana, they're a generation up – it was just the first day. He’s very ambitious about his work as a straight actor, I was like: “You're funny, it’s cool… just not now.”

What is the most challenging aspect of filming in South Africa?

Budget, at the moment we need to try and recoup our budget in the local marketplace and there's a very conservative estimate of what a film will make in South Africa because historically local films haven't made very much apart from Leon Schuster and now the Afrikaans “romcoms”.

That means the business model for budget is low. In the case of Cold Harbour, I wanted to make a genre film with some action, it doesn't have many complicated Hollywood fights and there's no pretense about trying to compete with that, because you can't. But we still wanted to do some action and that's very hard because technically when you shoot a fight I could be down to doing half a page in a day. When you're shooting the film in 26 days, my average needs to be six pages a day, so when I shoot half a page in a day, I've got to make it up on the other days.

You need to do that without reverting to some sort of really boring TV shooting style. You still want to be making cinema. Time and money, time and money... those are the same challenges for film-makers everywhere. On the upside, we can do more with less money here.

Carey McKenzie on Cold Harbour setWhat would you want audiences to take away from your film?

When I go to movies I want to see something that feels truthful, even if it's fiction. I want there to be something that resonates with me in terms of my experience of being human, so I want it to be truthfully human and authentic and maybe give me insight into something more. That's what cinema does, it's a uniquely intimate medium, I can come into your thinking space, body language and into the subtext. A novel can tell me what the person is thinking but you've told me, I haven't really gone there with my imagination.

I hope that South Africans will feel that we've reflected something of our current moment in a fictional way. I also hope they come away feeling inspired. Sizwe takes on systemic corruption. You could say it’s futile and that one good cop is not going to change the system… I have no illusions about that, and the way I did the story doesn't suggest that either. What is laudable to me is that even though he's flawed and made some crummy choices, is his courage. He has the balls to want to do the right thing, even though the way he executes isn't perfect and even though the outcome is questionable.

What inspired you to become a director?

When I was in high school, two boys in my year went to the film-makers workshop, so I also decided to go and we made films on Super 8. It wasn't that I had a crush on them, they were cool and I wanted to hang out with them. It had never occurred to me that film-making was a profession. Oh, the guys are still my friends, and one of them is Tim Greene!

Which directors do you consider to be role models?

I'm very inspired by 1970s cinema, mostly American, Scorsese always - things like Raging Bull and Coppola's Apocalypse Now, shooting two months with Harvey Keitel and then having the ability to switch to Martin Sheen. There was something very special that happened in that period, where the studios were investing in films that were grappling with the social moment in a way that was intelligent and challenging to the audience. Those filmmakers had an amazing opportunity and my aspiration is that we have not a situation, which is not completely dissimilar where social issues, a violent history, stuff to grapple with in the culture, and the opportunity to do really original things in cinema.

There was a bag at the Cannes Film Festival and they celebrated all of the names of the great auteurs who had been celebrated and there was only one woman on the bag, Jane Campion. Lately, Kathryn Bigelow... recovered from being married to James Cameron - she did this amazing thing about the new millennium, Strange Days, and then disappeared, got married to James Cameron and then she knocks it out the park with The Hurt Locker. There's a notion that women only do relationship and period piece dramas and she's done some interesting work liberating other female film-makers.

Any advice for aspiring South African film-makers?

Watch films, not just now, watch all kinds of films. I was lucky enough to go to film school in New York and had this video store called Kim's Video within five minutes walk from where I lived. I decided to watch a film a day because I could, they cost a dollar to rent. Even when you make one little short film, the way you watch films transforms because you have new insight into the editorial process and the language of film, which you receive unconsciously as a general audience member.

When you try to speak through cinema, you start thinking about how you want to speak it your own way. Like among our film-makers, Oliver Hermanus, with his first film Shirley Adams, where he decided I'm going to be behind her to convey her point-of-view all the time. Every film-maker has to figure out what their films are with commitment and clarity. Then, theatre is affordable and accessible, it's a great place to discover new actors. Even though you may have to coach them in film acting.

 
Andrew Worsdale on 'Durban Poison'


Andrew Worsdale is a Johannesburg-born South African actor, filmmaker and journalist. Worsdale studied drama at Wits University, before completing an MFA in Film and TV on a Fulbright Scholarship at UCLA. As a filmmaker he has made several short films and produced some documentaries including the cult underground feature-film Shot Down, which he directed in 1987. His latest film, Durban Poison, a killer romance road movie based on a true story and starring Brandon Auret and Cara Roberts, will be showing at the Labia Theatre in Cape Town and Bioscope Theatre in Johannesburg from 11 July.

Andrew Worsdale Interview - Durban Poison

Durban Poison took root in 1988, why has it taken so long to make?

The reason it happened now is because of the Karoo Film Company, Diony Kempen and Deon Meyer, I had worked for Diony and he liked the script and because of the DTI rebate scheme that has led to this re-energized local industry.

It's loosely based on the real story of Charmaine Philips and Pieter Grundlingh... what about their story inspired you to make Durban Poison?

After Shot Down I wanted to make a normal movie. I was reading James Cain and wanted to make a noir, femme fatale crime film. I met a journalist and actor and the Philips story was still fresh in people's imagination strangely enough. In retrospect, the media made so much of it - echoes of Natural Born Killers there. The gifted director Sara Blecher made a very good documentary about Charmaine Philips and Piet Grundlingh as part of a series of love stories done for SABC – a long time ago in the early days of SABC - when it was still pretty good, 1996 or thereabouts!

"If it had been made in 1988 it would have been an uglier film about Fascism or the dying days of Apartheid..."

For a time it was developed as a kind of biopic, straight narrative form when they met in Durban through their life to the fights, the split up and the dope deal and it going wrong and the other murders and then a trial, and then, in the true story - a turn in the trial and a confession. I remember at that time I was also inspired by The Executioner’s Song – great telemovie of Mailer's book with Tommy Lee Jones - and James William Guerico’s Electra Glide in Blue!

The film seems toned down with a stronger focus on the love story...

Basically I needed a spine to tell a noir story. If it had been made in 1988 it would have been an uglier film about Fascism or the dying days of Apartheid - more trashy and excessive. So it was never going to be their story - as in a true crime flick... just a take on the genre.

Also after many years of development - the flashback structure came after Memento and Charlie Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. When making it I defaulted the film into romance - it was the way to go with the people I was dealing with and I’m glad I did - I love this regretful, compassion it has - Peter Machen called it "a women's pic" and it's true. Other versions were way grungier and sexual.

The film was shot in 18 days with 20 days of pre-prod, so I went for the gap - with romance on my side I guess - and I love that. Wherever it has played around the world: Busan, Goa, London, Dubai, Luxor, Khouribga, Durban – it is always women who come to me afterwards to say thanks, or they were moved, or is Brandon Auret single?

Did you ever meet or interview either of the real-life inspirations?

Nope. And I think everyone should leave her alone to live her life. There's was a tragic time and it was decades ago. The public and media should rather pay attention to how they are loving those close to themselves.

"(I saw) a black-and-white photocopy of a photograph of Cara – and I knew she was it..."

Durban Poison has a stellar South African cast... how did you get them on-board?

I've worked as an actor and so I know most of them. Especially the old guys! Danny Keogh played Arnold, the drag queen in Torch-Song Trilogy at the Market Theatre roundabout 1983 - I played the kid he adopts in the third act. I used Danny for the classic scene at the roadhouse in Shot Down as a deranged psycho who shoots Robert Whitehead, James Philips and the protagonist at Casablanca Roadhouse, in my M-NET short Stimulation Danny played a nasty abusive father of a high-school kid, so I really want him in all my movies.

Marcel and Marie were going to be the original Piet and Joline - so that was something I had to do, also Marie is in Shot Down, in the scene in the hotel lift and in the woman on the notorious Voortrekker sequence. Frank Opperman plays a cop who raids a township party in Shot Down. I love Frank - just love him - so I had to get him – it was either him or Lionel Newton and Frank said yes first - Lionel was great in my M-NET movie Stimulation as a whacked drug dealer, very strange! So that’s it...

Karoo Films were very supportive of my casting choices – perhaps also because I knew the actors, they "did it for me" – so people cut their rates radically. As for Brandon, I was freaking out, there was some kind of pressure to cast an Afrikaans pop star type idea – Arno or – whomever- Yo-landi from Die Antwoord as you correctly said so yeah, basically - I cast the movie!

Durban Poison - Cara Roberts, Andrew Worsdale and Brandon Auret

Brandon Auret works quite beautifully as Piet, when did you envisage him for the part?

I’d always known Brandon and actually loved his work, but somehow he wasn't coming up. Then in a God-given moment my DOP Will Collinson was shooting a 48 Hour Film Project and Brandon was the lead - in a f*cked up crazy performance. Diony Kempen called me through to watch some of the cut - within minutes I had Brandon on the phone and sent him a script. He came in to see me at 10am the next day and I cast him.

He's incredible in the movie - and he is a friend now - as he says in the film "you can count on me" - well you can count on Brandon as a collaborator... it's why Neil likes him. Of course I hope to make another flick - and in the rewrite I'm doing, there's a part for Brandon!

This is a film debut for Cara Roberts, tell us how she came to be in Durban Poison?

For Joline - I didn't know, but went to see Moonyeenn and she showed me a black-and-white photocopy of a photograph of Cara – and I knew she was it... I saw a young Isabelle Huppert or something in that picture, plus her parents  who I know. I saw one other actress – an "unknown" from Pretoria.

"I made the noir romance – now I wanna do something that’s more like a Saturday night flick..."

How strictly did you adhere to the script?

Because I really had the story in my head and now was the time, 18 days to capture it. I stuck to the script but had moments where I cut entire scenes because production didn't manage to get a soup kitchen sorted, for instance. But with actors and stuff I allowed for inspiration, but all the dialogue is the dialogue - actually!

In the edit, the first cut was 105 minutes - the running time is now 94 minutes. In the cut we lost a lot of dialogue and whole set-ups, smoking weed on the beach with the cops. So I refined the movie, focusing more on the romance. In a way that's why there are two posters - the one with the gun - American styled b-movie thing and the romance dream sad sunset one.

Durban Poison seems ahead of its time for a South African film, why?

Well most South African movies are kind of predictable - you know what it is going in, they don't really stay with you and they’re to do with context not suspense - it's all to do with the writing and therefore above all development and therefore - the gatekeepers. I don’t wanna get into it, depresses me... or I’ll get angry... I mean why isn't Durban Poison playing at Cresta for f*ck’s sakes? Or at the drive-in at Menlyn Park?

What would you like audiences to take away from Durban Poison?

My bank account number to send a donation. Kidding. Well, not kidding! But right now to tell their friends to see it this month sometime at the Labia and Bioscope - then perhaps I can leverage other screens to show it.

Have you got another passion project in the pipeline?

I’m doing a rewrite on a movie, it's a comedy meant to open on 100 screens! It's called Freddie’s Hairfood Factory - totally different to Durban Poison - I made the noir romance – now I wanna do something that’s more like a Saturday night flick that you wished would never end.

 
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