‘Hansie’ premieres in Durban

2008-09-19 00:00

There have been mixed reactions to Hansie, the movie version of the rise and fall of South African cricketing hero Hansie Cronje, which premiered in Durban last night. Some have loved it, others have hated it. But for all — including team-mates, family and friends, and even Dr Ali Bacher — emotions have run high.

Hansie Cronje’s brother, Frans, who wrote and produced the film, and Frank Rautenbach, who plays Hansie, were in Durban for the opening. “We are trying to tell the story of a real person rather than a sports’ icon,” said Cronje.

Frans sat behind Hansie at the King Commission hearing into match-fixing and lived his brother’s agony. However, he is adamant that this movie is not intended to make excuses for his brother’s fall from grace into the hands of bookmakers. Instead, it is a movie about forgiveness.

Cronje has been criticised for the Christian message that runs through the movie. He said that unlike books, movies can only focus on a single aspect of a story. They chose Hansie’s inner turmoil and Christianity was central to that. He explained that even though Hansie had apologised to the world and many forgave him, he battled to forgive himself.

“If we had won the 1999 Cricket World Cup and retired, people wouldn’t have identified with him. Many identify with him because he [did wrong]. People must see the movie and make up their own minds,” he said.

Both Cronje and Rautenbach said the film had been well received at the premiers; from the 1 200-strong celebrity gathering in Johannesburg to the intimate launch in Bloemfontein, which had friends and family crying openly.

At the latter, Rautenbach said that Hansie’s parents thanked him for playing their son with sensitivity. When he accepted the part he thought it was a great honour, but it took him a year before he felt comfortable with the task.

He pointed out that Hansie was an extremely confident man with a “winner” mindset befitting an international hero. The depth of his fall and his depression were in direct relation to this. “For me, the challenge was to have all of that in my heart before shooting started.”

The most difficult scenes for Cronje were the King Commission hearing, the scene in which Pastor Peter Pollack tells the story of the Prodigal Son and the funeral.

“That was when the whole Hansie story really hit me. I was sitting desperately trying to control my emotions and hold back my tears.”

Exactly how the public react to Hansie could have far-reaching implications. At R5,5 million, this is a big-budget movie for South Africa. It was pre-sold to a Los Angeles company and the producers took “a calculated risk” using bridging finance. When the funding stalled, they “restructured and restructured” until by the end of November, they realised that it “was not going to work”. They were R36 million in debt.

Cronje says they had to choose between stopping production or “making a plan”. The plan was the formation of a trust. All shares in the movie were signed over to the trust and creditors became the directors. If the movie is successful, they all get paid in full.

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