A film about cowgirls in the Karoo

2012-07-19 10:09

Filmmaker Jenna Bass is on a road trip when I get hold of her. She’s in the old town of Beaufort West in one of the richest heritage regions of the Karoo, plotting her next movie.

Flatland will be the world’s first South African feminist Western and next week she’s heading to the Durban International Film Festival to pitch it to funders.

Along with the likes of sci-fi heroine Lauren Beukes and terror queen duo SL Grey, Bass is one of the young women writers shaping Cape Town’s growing wave of fantasy, sci-fi and horror fiction – and now movies.

“I hate giving the one-liners,” she laughs when I ask for the Flatland plot in a nutshell.

“It’s about three very different South African women who independently embark on a quest to find a missing apartheid-era bomb that’s rumoured to be in the Karoo. It’s a race against time.”

The film, set in the present, is a new school Western that plays with the genre – though Bass promises there will be at least one horse.

Her multicultural heroines are a middle-aged policewoman from Pretoria, an animal welfare inspector from Cape Town and a pregnant teenager from the Karoo.

“Normally, in Westerns, the women are implicated but you very seldom find them driving the plot.”

They often gaze from the porch while the men ride off to save the day with ruthless courage. “When you put women in the men’s position you suddenly get all these questions raised.”

With her producer David Horler, Bass will also be shopping a completed script called Tok Tokkie. It’s a supernatural story about an NGO in Cape Town that works to protect ghosts.

To crack a case they must team up with a demon.

Horler says the project attracted plenty of interest in Cannes recently.

Since District 9 rocked the planet, eyes have been on our speculative fiction.

Beukes, who won the Arthur C Clarke award, was this week in Detroit researching her globally-anticipated new time travel novel Shining Girls.

She has written a first draft of the movie version of Zoo City, which has been optioned by seasoned producer Helena Spring.

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