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Christia Visser on 'Tess'


Tess Movie 2016Rising South African star, Christia Visser, recently played the lead role in Tess, a film adaptation of Tracey Farren's novel Whiplash. The challenging performance recently won her Best Actress, in addition to Tess winning best South African feature film and editing after its world premiere at the Durban International Film Festival.

The film follows the heartrending journey of a woman forced into prostitution and the difficulties she encounters on the streets of Cape Town. Having recently starred in the grueling true story drama, Alison, and South Africa's first zombie feature, Last Ones Out, Visser has become quite prolific... SPL!NG caught up with her in this exclusive interview.

How did you get involved with this project?

I got the audition script and was immediately drawn to the challenge of conveying such a message that is often eluded. When it came to committing myself to the project, however, I found myself declining out of fear... I thank Meg for not giving up on me, because I went on to have conversations about the film with my parents with regards to the very serious subject matter of the film. Abuse is something I feel very strongly about... so I had to do this film. And that was that.

The production has been renamed several times - can you tell us about the transition?

The film is based on Tracey Farren's novel called Whiplash, so that was the first choice for the film obviously... but after the award-winning film by the same name came out, we had no choice but to change it. We then decided on Shushh as that's exactly what people tend to do when it comes to abuse, they keep quiet about it.

It felt fitting, but unfortunately it wasn't exactly a marketable name as most people struggled to pronounce it and the meaning wasn't clear for some reason. It was only then that we decided on Tess, which actually seemed quite natural, since the story follows Tess's journey...

You’re playing a very challenging character with a difficult history, how did you prepare for the mental and physical demands of playing her?

As an actress you can not judge your character. As humans, we are inclined to judge things like sex work... I had the privilege of meeting some former sex workers, whose stories and hearts changed mine... The harsh reality of their lives and the fact that for them there was never a choice, broke my heart and it made me realize that you can be a good person thrown into an unbearable situation that makes you feel unworthy of anything good.

This was my first and probably most important step towards becoming Tess. I don't ever really have a recipe of preparation... I learn to understand my character, I trust my instincts and then I throw myself into every scene heart first... and then I trust that my director, cast, crew, family and friends will be there to catch me when I fall.

Has this role inspired you in any way?

Absolutely. It's made me want to stand up against abuse, now more than ever. It makes me want to tell more stories like this in Afrikaans, to push the boundaries and push past my fears as an actress.

What was it like working with Meg Rickards?

Meg has all the heart and passion a project like this needs. She is an incredibly supportive person. This was a difficult film to make, it's tiring and it hurts, so you have to treat it with a lot of sensitivity, she understood that.

What did you find most challenging about making this film?

I had to let go of my moral standards... the soliciting and sex scenes were really hard for me to do. Physically my body was sore and tired and more than that it was hard to stay in an emotionally wrecked space for such a long period of time. At some point you start forgetting what is yours and what is hers, that made the recovery process difficult.

Tess Film 2016

What was a highlight or a special memory you’ll take away from Tess?

The incredible support of my fellow cast members and crew... they were with me every step of the way, carrying me when things got too much for me to handle. After one scene... when I looked up, the crew were standing with their backs towards me in order to give me privacy in the moment, they were hurting with me.

The film centres around abuse… is this a message movie, and if so, what message do you think it’ll leave with audiences?

For me, yes, it definitely has a very important message... I hope when you watch this film that the reality of abuse will hit you in the gut, because it's not pretty and it's not okay. Even though abuse may only last for a while, the effect of it can last a lifetime. But there are always angels among the darkness. For those that have been victims of abuse, may this film give you strength and hope. There as so many good people in this world, we just have to choose to stand together.

Have you read the book, and if so, how faithful were the film-makers in bringing this book to life?

I haven't read the book actually... I started and then decided that the script was more than enough to deal with. But I do believe that it was truthful, we used the exact same locations as in the book and the story unfolds in the same way. Obviously a lot of scenes had to be cut for the film, but Tess's journey and the essence of the story stays the same.

 
Top Ten Movies with... Deep Fried Man


Deep Fried Man or Daniel Friedman is a South African musical comedian and writer, who has made a name for himself with his clever, quirky, unique and somewhat controversial blend of comedy, music and satire. He derived his stage name as a play on his real name, saying he wanted to perform an "unhealthy" kind of musical comedy.

Friedman studied journalism, philosophy and drama at Rhodes University and went on to complete a PGCE at Wits University. After university, he worked in journalism and social media, performing alternative folk music in Johannesburg prior to becoming a comedian. His big comedy break came when he won the 2010 Comedy Showdown, which enabled him to perform with top local and international comedians at the UN Comedy Show.

Winning Best Newcomer at the South African Comic's Choice Awards in 2011, Deep Fried Man went on to perform in comedy shows such as the Heavyweight Comedy Jam, The Jozi Comedy Festival, The Nandos Comedy Jozi Fest, Loads of Laughs, 46664's It's No Joke, Jew Must Be Joking and Blacks Only, featuring as a supporting act for Trevor Noah's Scratch That. His debut one-man show, Deeply Fried, won a Standard Bank Ovation Award. Friedman went on to write and perform the more satirical, White Whine, and most recently In Good Taste (27/28 May - The Lyric, Gold Reef City, book tickets).

Friedman had a cameo in the comedy drama, Material, and has had numerous TV appearances including: Mzansi Magic's LOL and Opening Guys, M-Net's Tonight with Trevor Noah, SABC 2's Morning Live, SABC 3's Last Say on Sunday and eNCA's Emmy award-winning weekly satirical new show, Late Nite News with Loyiso Gola. He was named as one of Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in the Arts & Culture category.

As a writer, Friedman writes for the Daily Maverick and Memeburn. He's also Internet famous, having developed a loyal Twitter, Facebook and YouTube following with highlights such as: co-creating An Idiot's Guide to the South African National Anthem with Gareth Woods, interviewing Julius Malema for MTV Base and getting Helen Zille to trend worldwide on Twitter. It's clear, Deep Fried Man is a prolific comedian and we were lucky enough to get his Top Ten Movies interview...

"Jack and Jill is an experience that has scarred me for life."

I can't watch movies without...

- My wife. She holds my hand when it gets scary.

Which famous people share your birthday?

- Haha, I had to do some serious Googling. I share a birthday with Led Zeppelin guitar legend Jimmy Page, Kate Middleton, the late Richard Nixon (one of the most hated US Presidents) and my personal favourite, AJ from the Backstreet Boys. (9 January)

What is the first film you remember watching?

- Probably a Disney cartoon. Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast?

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

- I find bad movies very entertaining. I once watched a film called Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. I’ve also seen Plan 9 from Outer Space by Ed Wood, considered by many to be the worst director of all time. And Troll 2 is the most hilarious bad movie I’ve seen. But those are all so bad they’re good. Trying to watch Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill is an experience that has scarred me for life.

Which movies have made you tearful?

- I shouldn’t admit this but I cry in movies pretty easily. So there are many, but nothing can compare to the scene in The Lion King when Mufasa dies. I’m getting all teary right now just thinking about it.

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

- Does Leon Schuster count?

What's your favourite movie line?

- “He’s not the messiah! He’s a very naughty boy!” ~ The Life of Brian

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- Although I may be flattering myself I want to say my favourite actor Johnny Depp, although he’s a bit too old at this point. And he’d have to put on quite a bit of weight.

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

- I have lots of movie ideas. I’m not much of a starter, or a finisher for that matter, but I have some ideas. I think a zombie movie set in South Africa and satirizing our fear and obsession with security would be great.

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

- Casablanca ...it’s unbelievable how many quotes and sayings come from this movie. And it still looks good and has barely dated.

- Goodfellas ...just the ultimate Scorsese movie. And the ultimate gangster movie. All his films are great but none come close to this.

- The Breakfast Club ...this just blew me away when I saw it though I was a young hormonal teenager at the time. Not sure if I’d still like it now. Probably the ultimate '80s film.

- The Life of Brian ...I am a huge Monty Python fan and I know the film by heart.

- The 12 Tasks of Asterix ...I used to watch this over and over again as a child. Not sure if it is any good but I have to put it on for the nostalgia value.

- Pulp Fiction ...if you’re my age there’s no way this film didn’t help define your teenage years.

- This is Spinal Tap ...I love mockumentaries and this was one of the originals and best.

- Man on Wire ...I also love documentaries and this is one that stands out for me.

- Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb ...a classic and one of the best satirical anti-war films ever.

- Shaun of the Dead ...Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are the best comedy-making team of the past decade or so and this was their first and possibly their best.

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... Edwin van der Walt


Edwin van der Walt is a dedicated, energetic and versatile young actor, who has already drawn acclaim with a series of instantly likable and heartfelt performances in South African feature films such as: Ballade vir 'n Enkeling, Hollywood in my Huis, Modder en Bloed and Die Pro, with a lead role in My Father's War, which is scheduled for release in August.

Having shown tremendous potential on the field as a sportsman, the multi-talented van der Walt chose an acting career over joining the Sharks Academy in Durban after playing for Paarl Boys High's first team for two years. He recently completed his B. Drama degree at the University of Stellenbosch and with such a promising future ahead of him at home and abroad, it's clear he made the right decision.

Having made a name for himself in the theatre arena under the direction of Marthinus Basson in Bos and Macbeth Slapeloos, he's now conquering the silver screen with roles that have been received with great enthusiasm working opposite the likes of Dawid Minnaar, Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Jana Cilliers, Antoinette Kellerman and Stian Bam.

As an ambitious rising South African film talent, it was only a pleasure to find out more about Edwin van der Walt and which films have made his Top Ten list!

"My brother and I almost know every
single line in the film..." [on Wedding Crashers]

I can't watch movies without...

- Having enough time, I have to watch a film straight through without pausing or having to wait until the next day.

Which famous people share your birthday?

- Albert Einstein (14 March)

What is the first film you remember watching?

- I saw Serengeti on IMAX and it blew my mind!

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

- Carrie (2013), I found it to be a bit of a rip-off, but was actually meant to be serious. The continuity was shocking and the boundaries were pushed too far for it to be a good horror/thriller film.

Which movies have made you tearful?

- Room, Amour, Up and Biuitiful.

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

- Oliver Schmidt (director), but not yet a real movie star.

What's your favourite movie line?

- "Yeah, that's me, taking the bull by the horns. It's how I handle business. It's a metaphor. But that actually happened, though." ~ Ben Stiller as White Goodman in Dodgeball

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- Eddie Redmayne, he's capable of making all of his characters vulnerable and honest. I find him truthful in every scene and I think his body type fits best to be perfectly honest, I'm not exactly built like Dwayne Johnson.

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

- A real-life story about an underdog achieving greatness and success. To quote Edward Norton, "The best films of any kind, narrative or documentary, provoke questions."

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

- Crash ...I came across this film after doing research on multi-narrative films. I love the way directors like Alejandro G. Iñárritu use this form of storytelling. After watching Crash I knew this would be something to take inspiration from, and maybe in the near future make a film like this. Excellent!

- The Piano Teacher ...while I was busy working on a film, My Father's War, which releases on 5 August this year, Stian Bam who played my father in the film gave me The Piano Teacher to watch. Michael Haneke became one of my favorite directors after watching this. He captures real-life and raw performances in such a way it's almost difficult to watch... in a good way. Isabelle Huppert gives one of the best performances I have ever seen.

- Biutiful ...I was looking for the film Crash in a DVD store and saw the cover of this film by the master, Mr. Iñárritu. I heard it had been nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, so I wanted to see what it was all about. Iñárritu made something that again was almost difficult to watch as he technically, as well as through the performances, makes you feel a lot more than we are used to, or would like to, in our everyday lives. Vulnerable, subtle and raw, Bardem also gives an inspiring performance.

- Wedding Crashers ...when you start to smile as you write the name of the film down, then you know it's the good stuff. I really like dramas and thrillers but one timeless comedy for me is Wedding Crashers. My brother and I almost know every single line in the film and have watched it an embarrassing amount of times. We find ourselves having inside joke moments in random conversations, just starting line-battling dialogue between Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Timeless comedy!

- Brokeback Mountain ...I was busy reading Heath Ledger's book, Heath. A Family's Tale, while busy shooting on the film Die Pro. Ledger is one of my favourite actors, who I look up to... a legend. In his book he mentioned that during the filming of Brokeback Mountain he was extremely lonely and had a difficult time dealing with that. He also met the love of his life, Michelle Williams, on set. I really wanted to watch all his films, especially after reading his book. I watched Brokeback Mountain and discovered one of his best performances, other than playing The Joker in The Dark Knight. He inspired me with a pure, raw and honest performance that day.

- Gone Girl ...David Fincher is the master of thrillers and definitely on my list of top directors. I saw Gone Girl on the big screen and still think it is Fincher's best thriller. But there was one scene has not left me to this day... the scene where Neil Patrick Harris' throat is slashed by Rosamund Pike. One of the most powerful scenes and mastered in all areas... the sound effect they used I can't describe, but it was spot on. I kind of laughed afterwards as I realized a few people made very weird and awkward sounds as that scene took place.

- Fight Club ...another reason I remember Fight Club, besides David Fincher being the director, is for Edward Norton's performance, which has stuck with me for a very very long time. Again technically as well a visually, Fight Club became a film that will always be on my top 10. Jared Leto took an extremely small cameo role just to be able to work with Fincher. I saw this when I was very young and every time I watch this film, which is a lot of times, it gets better and better.

- Before Sunset ...I saw the trailer for Before Sunset and immediately wanted to see it. I started watching interviews with the director and became a big fan as he spoke about how he works with actors and writes his scripts. I bought the first two films from Linklater's trilogy and could not get enough of them. I kept on talking about it for days, the film started to make its way into conversations. I could not stop talking about it for weeks. It plays off in real-time following a conversation between Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply as the co-leads. It's amazing how an 80 minute conversation could keep me intrigued.

- Vertical Limit ...this is my guilty pleasure film. This is one of the first films I remember watching and having such a big emotional impact - for some reason this film stuck with me. Not a lot of people remember or even watched this film but it will be on my top 10 as I will never forget this experience.

- Whiplash ...this film made me realize a film does not need to be complex to be exceptional. Such a simple story line, subtle and raw performances, and technically beautiful. The performances from Miles Teller and J.K Simmons are also worth watching over and over.

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... Charlenè Brouwer


Charlenè Brouwer is a passionate, versatile and talented actress, director and writer. She's best known for the title role of Anna Bruwer in Sara Blecher's award-winning film, Dis ek, Anna, which won Best Picture at the Silwerskermfees and SAFTAs. Brouwer and Bruwer may look like polar opposites, but both share an indomitable intensity, strength and tenacity that shine through. While Dis ek, Anna is a breakthrough role, Brouwer's also known for playing Susan Boshoff in Vrou Soek Boer and Elize Jones in SABC 2 drama, Thola.

More recently, she's been making her mark as a director with short films, Anderkant Gister and Op Pad met Dana. Behind-the-scenes, she's worked as a continuity and script supervisor on films such as Stuur Groete aan Mannetjies Roux, Treurgrond and SuurlemoenCharlenè has also featured in many television commercials over the years.

Together with her husband, Niel van Deventer, the two helped produce Dis ek, Anna as Palama Productions. With a Silwerskermfees and Rapid Lion International acting nomination for her performance in Dis ek, Anna, it seems that the strikingly beautiful and soulful Brouwer is on the road to true cinematic greatness. We discovered, which movies have shaped and inspired her over the years... and which of those deserve a spot in her Top Ten!

"South Africa has talent that the world needs to see."

I can't watch movies without...

- Popcorn! Seriously... if ever there comes a day where my popcorn actually lasts until the movie starts. I usually scoff it down in the trailers and end up finishing my poor husband’s popcorn... and no, he has no say in the matter.

Popcorn is my escape, the difference between work and relaxation. I am also a continuity supervisor on films and sometimes I can’t stop working. Popcorn helps me switch off and relax... so my poor husband sacrifices his popcorn for a greater cause. And I don’t order two for myself because, well... that's just wrong!

Which famous people share your birthday?

- Yves Saint Laurent, who was an Algerian-French fashion designer, one of the greatest and most celebrated icons of the fashion industry. I was born on 1 August 1984 and growing up, I never met anyone that had the same birthday as me. For a long time I believed I was the only person that was born on this day, so it made me special... of course this was before the Internet – yes I'm that old! As a teenager, I loved that one of my idols, President Nelson Mandela and I were both Leos.

What is the first film you remember watching?

- Definitely two of the all-time Disney greats... The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, which I watched over and over, and strangely enough Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which gave me nightmares as a child, but I also watched that over and over. I still cannot watch the part where the sacrificial victim's heart gets ripped out of his chest. My brother and cousin used to tease me relentlessly shouting out "Kali Ma... Kali Ma... Kali Ma Shakti de", chasing me around pretending to want to rip my heart out for hours... ah good innocent times.

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

- Without thinking Sharknado! But the sad truth is that it's so bad it's good. I shriek in joy when I find it on television and end up watching it because it's so horribly and wonderfully bad. I don’t mind bad films when they're made by international production houses that have too much money.

What gets to me is bad local films. South Africa has so much talent and we need to start working together to create a standard to prevent South African audiences from saying "We'll wait for it on BoxOffice." Films should be seen in the cinema and those of inferior quality, not worthy of the silver screen, should go straight to television.

There are not enough resources to continue allowing bad local films to be supported or made for no reason. There are some wonderful and astounding local films and I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for film-making in South Africa. Some of my favorite local films include: Skoonheid; Faan se trein; Ayanda; Otelo Burning, While You Weren't Looking and a short film called Konneksies. South Africa has talent that the world needs to see.

Which movies have made you tearful?

- So many. I can't pick a favorite amongst so many films that have formed me as an individual. The earliest ones are When A Man Loves a Woman... I start crying during the opening titles. I love this film because it's so real and honest. I grew up in a very conservative family where you don't always talk about things openly and also don't know other people's struggles.

The other great in my life is La Vita e Bella or Life is Beautiful. This was the first film that inspired me to become a director. It was such a beautiful story and Roberto Benigni is such an inspiration as a writer. The reason why this film is so important to me is that even in the darkest tones of this story there was hope and love... that’s incredible storytelling. I am a Disney and superhero freak – one of those weirdos that know all the trivia (or most of it). I don't know if there is one Disney film that has not made me cry... ever.

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

- The best thing that ever happened to me... my sister-in-law bought me tickets to go see a play at the Wyndham's Theatre in London. The play’s name was American Buffalo starring John Goodman, Damien Lewis and Tom Sturridge. It felt like I met John Goodman – I was completely starstruck and it was the best experience of my life... I started crying like a child inside the theatre with my husband.

In South Africa, the actors that I have had the privilege to work with, who also happen to be my heroes: Marius Weyers; Ntathi Moshesh and Anna-mart van der Merwe.

What's your favourite movie line?

- "The crazy thing is, you're not crazy. Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy." ~ Girl, Interrupted

This film inspires me to think and tell stories outside the box every day. Who would have thought a film about people in a mental institution could make more sense than most plots in romantic comedies.

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- ...we'll start casting at the end of this year.

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

- My husband and I produce films. The next films we are producing are all stories that have a bigger aim than to simply serve as entertainment. We aim to tell stories that will change people's lives like so many of my top films have changed; influenced; inspired and motivated me in my life. Films that truly make a difference socially and stand up to speak about issues we, as human beings, sometimes try to hide from. Purposeful storytelling!

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

I never had the opportunity to study film – I learned by watching films and working on film sets. These films are not only films to me but the whole basis of what I would like to achieve in storytelling one day... big dreams I know, but I'm willing to put in the work!

- The Little Mermaid ...this film made me believe in magic. That sometime during the night my feet might change into a mermaid tail. I practiced swimming and walking to prepare for that day, if it ever happened, in the swimming pool. I still believe in magic and am waiting for that to happen.

Beauty and the Beast” (Everything Disney) ...I simply love all the Disney films and would actually put all of their films into my top ten. Disney makes people believe in true love, romance and good in the world. Every child should grow up watching Disney.

- Kick-Ass ...I despise Nicolas Cage. I can’t stand him as an actor – I don't know why. But I'm not alone... let me sing you the song of my Internet meme people: "Kick-Ass inspires me everyday that maybe one day too I can play a superhero..." no offence Nic... it's you, not me.

- Singin' in the Rain ...Gene Kelly is the epitome of pure talent and the discipline he put into his talent is everything every actor and artist should strive for day in, day out. This film was written so cleverly and the commentary about the film industry is still relevant today.

- The Piano ...written and directed by Jane Campion. This was one of those films that took some time to shake off my soul. It was made in New Zealand and won three Academy Awards that once again proves that with the right story all financial aspects can be overcome to compete with the best in the world. A good film; powerful acting and exceptional directing all starts with a strong story and script.

- The Devil's Advocate ...for many years Al Pacino could do no wrong in my eyes. This film was one of those stories that challenged the system and proved that when a controversial film or story is told well enough it could be a commercial success as well. It grossed almost $160 million and just take a minute to think about how the writers had to pitch this story to a producer!

- Snatch ...this is one of best simply because it spares the audience any pretentiousness. It's brutally honest, funny and nothing is forced, not even for one minute. The film plays out like reality would and it's written and edited quite simply and genially.

- Girl, Interrupted ...this film is one that sits at my very core. I was blown away by Angelina Jolie's performance. She played a complete psychopath but so well that you start doubting the real "sane" characters. I felt myself move with her and wanted her to succeed in her absolutely crazy goals. This film inspires me as an actress to not just think and play what is written on the pages of a script, but to go much further than that.

- Fight Club ...Fight Club completely messed with my mind as a teenager and showed me how to challenge rules and set guidelines within a craft. The editing and hidden messages within this film were one of the first times that a film made me start to think about and research all technical aspects rather than acting and story.

- Silence of the Lambs ...never, and I mean never, will a film like this exist again. In my humble opinion, psychological thrillers will never live up to the standard that Silence set. Yes, and I have seen Shutter Island and Gone Girl and no, it still does not compare to the scare value Sir Anthony Hopkins instilled in my bones with this film.

- Life is Beautiful ...Life is Beautiful has everything a story should have. To me this was perfect.

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.


 
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