Cinema audiences are waiting in anticipation for the release of what promises to be this year’s biggest war drama The Recce, set to release nationwide on 28 September. However, the director, Ferdinand Van Zyl believes that the film will provide a cinematic experience that is beyond the genre, a tale of survival, love, duty and sacrifice.
“Filmmaking is a cathartic process for me. The idea for the film started in my head when I visualized a soldier dying in a tree, holding a photo of his wife. My fiancé was pregnant with our son at the time, and I drew a lot from that. I knew that our main protagonist had to make his way back to his pregnant wife, who was also named after my fiancé Nicola. So on a personal level, I drew from my family for inspiration, but all in all, this film is also an ode to men an woman who sacrificed body and mind during the border war. I subsequently met with producer Jac Williams, who believed in the dream. That was almost three years ago,” said Van Zyl.
The Recce was shot in various locations across South Africa. “We couldn’t go to Angola, so we had to opt for locations that mimic the warzone. We shot a big part of the film on the Bergrivier farm, in the Eastern Cape. That location was both beautiful, with indigenous forests and tough. Many of the exterior scenes were filmed in the Kouebokkeveld, with its expansive empty vistas. We also shot in the Cedar Mountains, on a private game reserve which burned down, and obviously worked well for a war-torn landscape. We also shot in Kersefontein, which is a very popular location, due to its hauntingly beautiful dry and arid terrain, but also because of its beautiful manor house, which doubled as our protagonist’s childhood home. Other than that, we shot in Worcester, which for the better part, is somewhat of a time capsule, with plenty of 70’s vintage looking buildings and neighborhoods that worked perfectly for the era,” Van Zyl continued.
The film hosts a star-studded cast, who impressed Van Zyl with their abilities to bring the characters to life. “Greg Kriek, played the lead (Recce really stands out to me). He was perfect for the role. I believe that Greg is one of those guys that would’ve made the cut back for special forces training back in the day. He is so enthusiastic and professional. He has the physical and emotional range to play almost anything. And we haven’t seen him in this kind of role, which gives me a kick. Christia Visser was perfect for Nicola…. She was born to act for the screen. She makes it look so easy, and she makes it real from a very deep place. She is one of the best, and is going to be one of the greats. Marius Weyers plays the general. Marius Weyers is Marius Weyers…he comes in and nails it on the first take, and just keeps on nailing it. Grant Swanby was perfect for Le Roux. He has a lot grace and charm. He is such a sincere person, which makes him perfect for the moral centre of the story. Albert Maritz is also one of the greats. He is always one of the first people I think of when I write. He has such a warm presence, and an interesting face. He was perfect for the father. Elsabe Daneel played the mother. She is perfect in that maternal role, and also is one of the sweetest human beings alive. They don’t make them like her anymore. Maurice Carpede was so awesome. He has such an incredible presence. His voice, the cool and suave manner he conducts himself. Contrary to his welcoming and warm voice over the radio, or for me at least, he had a very dark presence, but that was because his character was dark and foreboding. He channelled Impi so well. It was probably the most layered and difficult character to play in the whole film. Again, we’ve never seen him in a role like this.”
According to Van Zyl, there has never been a local film like this. Never. “People will be presented with a new cinematic language, to a personal cinema that has, for a long time, been lacking locally. We are experiencing an incredible new wave in local cinema at the moment, with so many incredible local artistically driven movies coming out. The Recce falls perfectly in that mold. The Recce is a film that defies genre, it’s a personal film about survival, love, duty and sacrifice.”
This war drama, scheduled for release on the 28 September 2018, tells the story of a young Recce, Henk Viljoen, who is wrongfully declared dead behind enemy lines. He must use every resource he has to get home to his distraught wife and family, who are, in turn, fighting their own emotional battles. This is also one of the first films in decades to explore issues regarding not only the Border War, but also the pain and suffering families had to endure during and after the conflict that lasted almost 20 years.
The film was produced by Jac Williams through Cape Town based production company Man Makes a Picture, and is the first in a slate of independent features from the company. Executive producers are Jac Williams, Johannes Ferdinand van Zyl and Jacques Le Roux. The Recce is being distributed by Gravel Road Distribution Group, in a multi-country deal.
The Recce was selected to screen in competition at the prestigious 2018 Durban International Film Festival in July 2018. This follows the film’s directors cut being selected to screen at both the Cape Town International Film Market and Festival in 2017 and Rapid Lion Festival this year.