The Afrikaans movie template

The creatives at South African satellite TV channel Kyknet — which also produces movies now — not only blatantly rip off American romantic comedy plotlines, but inhabit a South Africa where there is not a single black face to be seen. On the other hand, maybe they’re being honest.

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Sean Jacobs

Also goes by Hasan Wazan. Life President.

16 Comments
  1. Its true, these films are not intellectual, the characters are always a little bit exaggerated and stereotypical and for sure not an all inclusive cast, but considering where this film is shot (on wine farms around Cape Town) it is dominantly white. These films however are shot for a very specific target group, and I think they tend to play a lot on nostalgia and Afrikaner pride to draw an audience. Judging by the soundtrack I can imagine the audience who will watch. That said,being Afrikaans and now in Europe, I did enjoy some of the lame Afrikaans humour in this trailer.

    1. When did the wine farms around Cape Town become dominantly white? Whites in the winelands have always been vastly outnumbered by the Coloured and African workers by a ratio of at least 10:1. Sure there’s such a thing as nostalgia, but even with its inevitable distortions nostalgia has some basis in the real world.

      1. @Ekapa: that was my point about this wilful blindness and erasure that is not just nostalgia, but also reflects race politics after Apartheid among elements in the white community. “Specific target group” is merely a euphemism.

      2. what I meant was not that there isn’t any coloured or black people, just in terms of wealth distribution and lifestyle, and yes Sean, target group is most definitely a euphemism, but I don’t necessarily think that it is the objective of that movie to be all representative – it was really easy entertainment.. Just as much as wouldn’t expect a film about a xhosa family to be all of sudden throw a white girl in there unless it serves the plot. However it isn’t real for sure, it didn’t show really the rich environment of Johannesburg, it hardly showed the many people walking in the streets etc. Is it problematic, I am not sure? Is it a good movie,probably not, I won’t give it an award, did I laugh at some of the jokes, yes I did, because I could relate to it. And it did even play on my nostalgia since I am not living in SA right now, I mis my “Afrikaansness”, it doesn’t mean at all that I want to exclude other races from the realm and perhaps had they include a less stereotypical characters and more diversity it would probably have been a deeper movie which could be much more reflective, but I am not sure it was the aim of the producers.. And Sean you do have a point, it could be a reflection of race politics, but I am not sure whether they thought that much about it.

    2. @Sean: Indeed. I love the way your last line ” On the other hand, maybe they are being honest,” slips the knife in so skillfully.

  2. That the premise is a blatant copy of some American romantic comedies is certain. However, its not supposed to be a documentary. Does the racial make-up of the movie have to reflect the racial make-up of South Africa simply because the people speak Afrikaans? Is it all that different from the movies made by minorities in the US (I’m thinking of Eddie Murphy / Chris Rock etc)?

    1. Afrikaans is a uniquely South African language, and so, yes, if the people in the movie speak Afrikaans, the movie has to reflect the reality of Afrikaans speaking people, which is indelibly multi racial. As a matter of fact I dare you to come up with even a fantastical scenario where in South Africa white people are ever in the absence of Coloureds or Blacks. The workers, ranging from child minders, cooks, gardeners, etc who are an integral part of white South African life at every turn cannot be somehow magically erased just because something is called a romantic comedy.

      When was the last time that you saw an Eddie Murphy or Chris Rock movie that had no white people in it or one that pretended that the lives of black people were totally untouched by white people? And what do American movies have to do with this particular one?

      1. I was just pointing out that 1. movies are stories (fantasies if you will) not documentaries and that 2. nobody seems to make the same critique when US movies only focus on a minority (which arguably makes many more movies that the Afrikaans film industry).

      2. Are you saying that the fantasy of white Afrikaans speaking people is a world devoid of the Coloureds and Africans who are an integral part of who they are?

        To repeat myself, what do American movies have to do with this conversation?

      1. I just watched the trailer you linked and saw only white characters. Are you perhaps referring to gender diversity ?

  3. Where are all the “wittes” in all the Tyler Perry droll? Meaning, minorities make movies about their lives and relationships all the time. Who cares? Lighten up ( no pun intended ) for god’s sake. Do we have to apply affirmative action to movie trailers now? Has anyone actually seen the movie yet? It is a stupid Afrikaans romantic comedy. Let it be. Sean, your blatant racism and anger towards Afrikaners in your tone is quite amusing. That is probably why I keep returning to this website. To see the chip grow with each post. Keep up the good work.

  4. Sean, have you ever written about your personal struggles with growing up in a society that was/is so racialized (if thats a word) in terms of how it damages your ability to think in non-racial terms? Have you ever caught yourself having a racist thought and been horrified by it (I have)? And have you ever looked back on any of your writing and thought, hey maybe this was more than just a valid criticism? I’m probably not making myself very clear. But I think the visceral reactions you sometimes get from people upset at you’re continuous (and usually valid) assaults on white racists and their manifestations is that it doesn’t seem like they are perused in a very self-reflective manner. Are you a fan/aware of Ta-Nehisi Coates over at the Atlantic? It is awesome how he handles issues of racism in America and in many ways I see you playing his role for South Africa. Its an important, needed, job. But sometimes you’re a bit too shrill, and take a bit too much pleasure in your attacks. It plays to the crowd well (ekapa applauds you “slipping in the knife”) but I think it ultimately limits your audience and your influence.

  5. I think a lot of these comments supporting Shaun’s viewpoint are bang on! I mean, I don’t actually think any of the writers of said comments have seen the movie but that doesn’t really matter.

    We absolutely need more South Afican films which portray the amazing integration of the societies within our Rainbow Nation. Movies like ‘Material’ which depicts the beautiful way in which an Indian family tries but struggles to integrate themselves with one, single, white, Jewish comedian. Now that’s truly South African and will undoubtedly be the official submission to the Oscars next year.

    Unlike ‘How to steal 2 million’ in which the only white person who is featured is a cop who dies. I mean, what rubbish! We all know most of the cops are African!

    Why can’t more films show Jhb for the city it really is without having to focus on the development and upliftment that’s going on in areas like Fox street and Braamfontein. I think ‘Jerusalema’ did this very well. That is the Jhb we all know, that is art. What was great about ‘Jerusalema’ was the opportunity it created for a host of South African actors, whether they were White, Coloured, Indian or African, as long as they were African. ‘Tsotsi’ did the same for Ian Roberts, although many people are still quite convinced that with his fluent Xhosa, he may be an Albino.

    There are just too many movies to mention which show the colour blind, seamless integration we live with in South Africa and which are proudly supported by the NFVF. Movies like ‘Othello Burning’, ‘Man on ground’, ‘Yesterday’, ‘Izulu Lami’, ‘Beat the Drum’ and ‘Max and Mona’ which really do us proud in showing that when it comes to African countries, South Africa truly is eclectic, diverse and completely mixed together. Like a giant trifle topped with chocolate shavings. Just without the sponge cake, jelly, custard, sherry, nuts, whipped cream or fruit.

    BTW – Kyknet was not in anyway involved in the writing of this film and did not in any way help produce it. They came onboard before the cinema release as a media partner.
    #justsaying
    #takeamomenttoresearchbeforeyouwrite
    #itsafilmforheavenssake
    #whytherewillalwaysbeworkforrealjournalists

    1. ha ha ha. Your hashtags made me smile. I agree with you, films showing the diversity of SA is better, the problem is that they are not being promoted and distributed very widely. I have only seen Tsotsi of the one’s you mentioned, I am interested in watching the others. Now in Milan, I actually found the Tsotsi movie at the library.

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