Afrikaans – a language which developed from Dutch – is one which is not heard often outside its homeland of South Africa. Like many countries around the world, South Africans often have to content themselves with imported films and other media – in other words, Hollywood productions translated into local languages. But a new resurgence in locally produced, Afrikaans films is now giving South Africans something a little more homegrown to entertain themselves with.
A recent example of the growth in Afrikaans film production is Stilte, a new work from the award-winning Darrell James Roodt. The film is set against a backdrop that will be familiar to many South Africans and touches on themes that may strike a particularly strong nerve in a country which continues to be plagued by violent crime. As some critics have pointed out, Stilte shares certain links with Roodt’s previous films, in particular a strong emphasis on the links between life, culture and environment – making the fact that the film was made in Afrikaans all the more significant.
Another Afrikaans film praised for breaking new ground recently was Die Wonderwerker – a film not only in Afrikaans but also touching on subject matter that resonates with South Africans. The film tells the story of South African poet Eugene Marais, who stands as something of a legendary figure in Afrikaans culture. The film tells the story of the heights of his genius and eventual tragic decline as a result of morphine addiction. The filmmakers were resolute in their determination to make the film in Afrikaans, despite pressure to the contrary – and their determination has been rewarded by critics and fans alike who are proud to see hear their mother tongue in use in a professional, well-executed artistic work.
Both films have been praised for moving Afrikaans filmmaking to a new level of sophistication, pushing away from a trend of lowest-common-denominator comedies. The future is looking brighter for up-and-coming South African filmmakers as these bold new films set a precedent for serious artistic works filmed completely in Afrikaans.