A new local feature film from Spotlight Entertainment, based on characters from a
long-running ad campaign and television series, completed production in October.
Linda Loubser visited the set of Babalas at Emperor’s Palace in Kempton Park.
A long white Hummer H3 limousine – one of only two in South Africa – pulls up slowly
at the main entrance of Emperor’s Palace casino. While the limousine itself is a
strange sight, it’s the men who emerge that cause passers-by to do a double take.
They are Boet (Ian Roberts), dressed in khaki shorts and knee-socks, and Swaer
(Norman Antsey) in a garish green, orange and yellow print shirt and floppy cap.
The duo entertained South Africans for years in a series of humorous Castrol oil ads
which started airing in 1988, as well as an M-Net television series called Kalahari
This time they’re joined by beautiful advertising agency worker Mia (Tammy Anne
Fortuin) and Neef (Zander Tyler, known by his stage name Jack Parow) on a roadtrip
from the Kalahari Oasis bush pub to Emperor’s Palace in the film Babalas.
Production on Babalas started on Wednesday 19 September after about six weeks of
pre-production, and wrapped on 20 October.
The film is produced and co-directed by Peter Scott, owner of video shop chain Mr
Video. Although it’s his first time in the director’s chair, Scott has been involved in
films including Oh Shucks I’m Gatvol, Bakgat 2 and Angus Buchan’s Ordinary People.
He explains that the film, in Afrikaans and English with subtitles, is funny and
exciting with lots of action – including a scene where someone jumps from the top of
a building. At one point, Parow also shares a scene with a baboon.
“You will laugh and you will cry, and you will cry from laughing so much,’ says Scott.
“But it’s not slapstick comedy – it’s intelligent comedy.’
Line producer Jarrod de Jong notes that the involvement of Roberts and Antsey was
paramount. “We always knew we couldn’t make the film without them, their chemistry
is the glue that holds it all together. We decided that we wanted to add Jack Parow
to the mix to appeal to younger audiences, and when he indicated he was interested
the character was written specifically for him.’
Off the wall
Parow explains why he took the role: “I’m a big fan of Norman and Ian, I grew up
seeing the Castrol ads – they were legendary. The movie was also just something
completely off the wall and weird.’
As his character is a rapper, Parow has written three new songs for the film and will
also be performing with the Radio Kalahari Orkes, a band led by Roberts.
According to Roberts, Boet starts the film in therapy. “I wasn’t too excited to do the
movie initially, but then the script started to develop and went to some very
interesting places,’ says Roberts.
Antsey adds: “The characters do develop. Swaer had to undergo a transformation from
someone who’s on the stoep all the time to going on the road. He has his own “coping
mechanisms’ which you’ll see in the film. I think audiences will relate.’
They don’t believe Babalas is a swansong for the popular characters. “As long as
there’s a desire in the audience to see Boet and Swaer, we’ll meet it,’ says Roberts.
The script was written by Carl Stemmet and Anne-Marie Jansen van Vuuren in a
collaborative process. Says Jansen van Vuuren: “We watched the old Castrol
commercials as well as the TV series for background on the characters – but it’s still
daunting to write dialogue and actions for characters that are such a big part of the
South African psyche.’
Babalas also stars Michael de Pinna, known for a series of Vodacom ads and Hannes
Muller. Says Scott: “Hannes will be playing four brothers – the town mayor,
psychologist, funeral parlour owner / taxi rental and traffic officer. It’s probably the
first time in this country that we’ve had one person playing more than one character
on screen at the same time, without the use of green screen.’
While about a third of the film is set at Emperor’s Palace, production also took place
at locations including Hotazhel north of Upington, Mabalingwe nature reserve – home
of the Kalahari Oasis bush pub, the Krugersdorp nature reserve and Tarlton.
“Emperor’s Palace stepped in as a sponsor of the film, so the premiere will also be
held here,’ says De Jong. “They even allowed us to invade their presidential suite to
film a typical Hangover-type scene.’
The film was shot by camera operator Jean du Plessis on a Sony NEX FS700 imported
from the US. “The camera can shoot 200fps super slow-mo in full high definition (HD),
and up to 800fps in standard definition,’ explains Scott. “The quality of the footage,
especially at night, is exceptional.’
They also made use of lots of aerial shots, done by acrobatic flying champion Timothy
Hamman who rigged a helicopter with a fully rotational, remote controlled Go Pro
De Jong explains that their initial budget was cut by 20% to about R4m. “We decided
that if we worked a bit harder and all put in more hours, we could cut the budget and
be more viable,’ says De Jong.
Editing was already in process in October, done by Neels Smit at Spotlight
The film will be distributed by Ster-Kinekor in August or September 2013 and producer
Andre Scholtz believes it will appeal to a wide target audience. “Older viewers know
the characters well, as the Castrol ads were on air for 15 years, while Jack Parow will
attract younger viewers.’
The film will be dedicated to Fats Bookholane who played the character of Moegae in
the ads and TV series. Bookholane passed away while the film was in production.
By Linda Loubser
Screen Africa magazine – November / December 2012