New Afrikaans film Lien se Lankstaanskoene, about a high school girl who resorts to begging to support her family, is the second collaboration between Afrikaans pay-TV broadcaster kykNET and Spookasem Films.
Producer Gustav Kuhn’s Spookasem Films first collaborated with kykNET on the 2010 film Die Ongelooflike Avonture van Hanna Hoekom. Both films are based on Afrikaans books prescribed in South African school curriculums – in the case of Lien se Lankstaanskoene, written by Derick van der Walt.
The book was adapted for the screen by Saartjie Botha and Andre Odendaal was commissioned as director.
Kuhn notes that it is a coming of age story. “Lien Jooste’s (Carmen Pretorius) life falls apart when her father is arrested for fraud and her mother (Franci Swanepoel) develops a drinking problem. They lose everything and go from being an upstanding, affluent family living in a nice neighbourhood to a broken mess – living in a small flat and struggling to get by. Due to her mother’s drinking, Lien has to take on the role of mother for both her mom and her younger brother Braam (Tiaan Kelderman),’ says Kuhn.
Lien unsuccessfully tries to earn money working various jobs and then decides that begging might be an easier option. “She befriends Roos (Elise Cawood) and Tibbey (Fiks Mahola), two beggars who show her that her life, compared to others, isn’t that bad after all. Through many trials and tribulations she learns to make peace with her circumstances and discovers that friendship, love, and forgiveness can heal many things.’
According to Kuhn the biggest challenge to adapting an award-winning novel is retaining its voice. “The challenge was staying as true to the novel as possible, yet finding its cinematic voice and the balance between the two,’ he explains.
They also faced a challenge in finding the right actress to play the role of Lien. “Although Lien’s character in the movie is 17 going on 18, we knew that finding the right person would require a level of maturity able to deal with the various emotions and development of her character.
“We immediately knew Carmen Pretorius, an experienced 21 year old stage actress, could pull this off, while credibly passing as a young lady in her final school year. As a person she has an undeniable truthful quality that we knew would translate to the screen as innocent, yet not oblivious to the challenges and growth process of her character.’
The film also stars Marie Pentz, Angelique Pretorius, Hykie Berg, Jacques Gombault, Fredia Roux, Eben Groenewald and Dirkie Stoltz.
Pre-production started in September 2011 and principal photography wrapped on 16 March 2012 after five weeks. The crew shot on locations in Pretoria including Hoerskool Garsfontein (Garsfontein High School) which Lien attends in her matric year, as well as Centurion.
“The Centurion location was across from the cricket stadium at one of the busiest intersections we could find. The story required that the begging scenes be shot in a natural and workable environment. This was not easy to say the least – there was lots of red tape before we could lock off the location and acquire the necessary permits.’
“Then of course there was the weather to deal with, as with any exterior shoot, as well as getting the traffic department to assist with road closures and dealing with the sometimes not so accommodating general motorists. Last, but not least, we had to recreate a believable accident scene that required more than 20 action vehicles – drivers, cranes, SFX, green screen and a rainmaker.’
Director of Photography (DOP) Justus De Jager shot in HD on a Canon EOS 7D. Kuhn explains: “We chose it primarily because Spookasem Films was the first production company in South Africa to shoot a feature film on this camera, putting us in a position from where we could expand our knowledge and experience in a way that would privilege the technical outcome and benefit the production as a whole.’
“Frank Meyburgh, the owner of Digitalfilm, rigged out the camera with a matte box, follow through focus, on-board VT, various filters and of course all the lenses the DOP required. He is truly a phenomenal authority on digital cameras and accessories and always willing to help. He also has an excellent support structure in place for whatever technical difficulties one might run into.’
Post-production is being done at FiX-Post Production.
The film is fully funded by kykNET, which also holds decisive rights to distribution. According to Kuhn both Ster-Kinekor and Nu Metro are collaborating with kykNET on a nationwide cinematic release. Although a release date has not been confirmed yet, Kuhn says it will be before the end of the year.
He believes Lien se Lankstaanskoene will appeal to teenagers and families. “Thanks to its majority young cast it will appeal to younger people, but at the same time its subject matter is very family orientated with serious themes – such as alcoholism and the degenerative influences found within the family next door.’
According to Kuhn it stands out among Afrikaans films because of its honesty. “I firmly believe that Lien has the ability and quality of performance to set a new benchmark with regard to “performance’ in a film – especially compared to the performance level the audience has become accustomed to. In my opinion, Lien rates not only as a narrative driven picture, but also as a performance driven one.’