THE 11th kykNET Silwerskerm Film Festival takes place from 23 to 26 August at the Bay Hotel and Theatre on The Bay in Camps Bay. After three days at these venues, the festive glitz moves to the Cape Town International Convention Centre on the Saturday evening, where Silwerskerm statuettes will be presented to this year’s top achievers in film and television. The glamorous new awards ceremony is destined to become a highlight on the South African entertainment calendar. The awards ceremony will be screened on kykNET (DStv Channel 144) the following day (Sunday, 27 August) at 8pm.
This year, kykNET expands the festival, which has invested in the local film industry and young talent for more than a decade. The festival’s successful short film mentorship project, boosting the careers of a new generation of filmmakers, branches out to include short documentaries. And for the first time, the packed festival programme also features pilot episodes of brand-new television and streaming series.
The films competing for the kykNET Silwerskerm Awards are the five features, 14 short films and six documentaries that premiere at the festival.
Among the feature films are two adaptations of bestselling Afrikaans novels: Hans steek die Rubicon oor, by Rudie van Rensburg, and Annie Klopper’s romantic comedy Die tragiese saak van Pamina Vermaak for which well-known TV personality Kabous Meiring makes her debut as feature film director.
Grumpy old Hans, who got stuck into an old-age home and now stokes a rebellion among his fellow residents against the draconian rules in this “jail”, is played by acting veteran Pierre van Pletzen. The motley crew of senior citizens at his side are fellow acting legends Tobie Cronjé, Sandra Prinsloo and June van Merch. Multiple award winner Nicola Hanekom fills the role of the crotchety matron who spoils everyone’s fun.
Carla Smith, who won the best actress in a short film category last year for her performance in Skyn, plays the role of Pamina, a journalist who flees to a picturesque West Coast town after causing a ruckus at the office. This is where she encounters the rock star Wolf de Jager, who is also dodging a scandal. Christiaan Schoombie (Desert Rose) is the handsome Wolf, and Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Lee-Ann van Rooi, Albert Pretorius, Armand Aucamp and Duane Willams are all part of the star-studded cast.
Another romantic comedy on the programme is Frankie en Felipé. The late Bradley Olivier and his long-time friend Solomon Cupido not only star in the show, but also share screenwriting credits with Brett Michael Innes (Sink and Fiela se kind). Bradley is Frankie, and Solomon is Felipé, two brothers whose lives followed different directions after they had become separated as young boys. When they reunite shortly before Frankie’s wedding, it leads to one mix-up after the other. Marvin-Lee Beukes directs, and the cast includes the likes of Ilse Klink, Zane Meas, Kim Syster and Bouwer Bosch.
In Blindelings, celebrity couple Ivan Botha and Donnalee Roberts, whose romantic comedy Vir altyd smashed local box office records, tackle a different genre – a psychological thriller. Ivan directs, and Donnalee plays the challenging lead role. Her character is a brilliant blind pianist who suffers from synaesthesia. Also in the cast are Jacques Bessenger, Ludwig Binge and Wilhelm van der Walt.
The drama Old Righteous Blues casts the spotlight on a South African cultural treasure: the Western Cape’s Christmas choirs. This Romeo and Juliet story, set in a divided Boland community, was filmed in Robertson with an impressive cast and extras from the area. It tells the tale of Hantjie, played by Ayden Croy, who desperately wants to become drum major for his Christmas choir. Unfortunately, the choir’s staunch leaders disapprove. In addition, the love of his life, played by promising actress Megan Saayman, is the daughter of the leader of a hated rival choir. The feud comes a long, tragic way, and the two lovers end up in the crossfire. Among the many veteran actors featured in Old Righteous Blues are Kevin Smith, Simon Bruinders and Ivan Abrahams.
The festival’s first six documentary short films focus on a variety of fascinating subjects. Teater na die mense tells the remarkable story of the Cape Flats Players theatre company that employed theatre to challenge the apartheid system and encourage audiences to resist suppression.
In Langafstand, the cameras follow the path of a role model from Cloetesville, Stellenbosch – cross-country athlete Deon-Lee Hendricks, who, with the help of his coach and athletics legends Elana van Zyl and Zola Budd, prepares for the trial that could lead to his selection for the South African team to compete in Australia.
’n Gids vir Louzanne, another inspirational sports documentary, explores the complex, symbiotic relationship between visually impaired Bloemfontein paralympic athlete Louzanne Coetzee and her race guides.
In the poignant Call of the Wild, viewers see how a unique sound safari grants a young blind woman access to the wonders of nature, while Besmet exposes how the iconic African lion is tragically and cruelly threatened by poisoning.
Then there is Born Behind Bars, a gripping documentary about a pregnant woman who receives a 10-year jail sentence.
After last year’s harvest reaped a long list of awards at international festivals, the 2023 festival offers 14 shorts by promising new directors and writers. Among these new behind-the-scenes talents are three established actors, and new film genres feature for the first time.
The festival’s first ghost story and Gothic romance, Helmhart, is the creation of Zenobia Kloppers, who played the title role in the awardwinning movie Fiela se kind, which premiered at the festival in 2019.
Actor Edwin van der Walt, directs the short film Hier|daar, and Lee Roodt, who often appears in international movies, is the writer of the festival’s first kung fu action film – Die Swart Draak ontwaak.
Some short film creators experiment playfully with animation effects and puppetry to tell their stories, such as Straatrotte and Thrift tot die dood. The love, suffering – and sometimes hilarious obstacles – of growing up are depicted in several short films. ’n Doop deals with the trauma that can stem from school initiation rituals, while Dans dat die biesies bewe tickles the funny bone.
Modern-life issues are tackled from different angles in two comedies, Koors and Karen, and the drama Volle bors. Koors is about THAT time of the month; Karen is about the chaos that internet memes can provoke, and Volle bors about a young woman with a breast cancer gene who has to consider a full mastectomy.
Other short films to look forward to: Een Saam, which explores the sadness that gender dysphoria and a gender transition can evoke; the twist-in-the-tail thriller Werpsel; the drama As, about a mother’s struggle to deal with the death of a child; and the gritty Die Blokke, which addresses gang violence on the Cape Flats from a fresh angle.
Following the festival, all the films will make their way to kykNET and the streaming service Showmax. The feature films will also be available on DStv Box Office, and some will enjoy theatrical releases. The titles of the TV programmes of which the pilot episodes will be screened are still under wraps but will be announced shortly.
- For the complete Silwerskerm Festival programme, click here.