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 Suurlemoen. Charlenè 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.