PMB film makers shoot their own

2010-01-16 00:00

FED up with waiting for senior people in the South African film industry to listen to their ideas, four young film makers secured R4 million to film their own work — the horror/thriller The Unforgiving.

Writer and director Alastair Orr and director of cinematography Craig Maarschalk, both of whom matriculated at Carter High School in Pietermaritzburg in 2002, met Kate Blackman, who attended St John’s, and Craig Hawks, who matriculated from Pinetown Boys’ High, when they headed to Johannesburg to attend AFDA — the South African School of Motion Picture Medium & Live Performance.

Speaking to me during a visit to family in Pietermaritzburg, Orr, who is now a television editor, said: “We were in different year groups, but we all knew each other from Pietermaritzburg. We tried for four years to get funding for our film projects … but the industry is run by geriatrics and old people who don’t like letting new talent in.”

Frustrated but determined, the foursome decided to go it alone and managed to get enough money together to make their first film, The Unforgiving, a South African Saw-style thriller, which will be screened in movie theatres nationwide in May.

“We felt that the horror/thriller genre was exactly the right choice to enable us to compete with films made in the United States,” Orr explained. “We wanted to make something that looked slick and was in a similar league to films like Saw, Hard Candy and Hostel. And, we were lucky enough to get SterKinekor to agree to pick up the theatrical release. They will also be making it available on DVD and for television.”

The Unforgiving is low-budget film making at its best. It has just four cast members — Hawks, Ryan Macquet, Clare Opperman and Michael Thompson — and was filmed at two locations in Vosloorus near Johannesburg, over eight weekends last year. Blackman, who is still an AFDA student, took care of the make-up, while Maarschalk, a cameraman by trade, caught all the action on film, and Orr, in addition to his writing and directing duties, edited and produced the movie.

“We’re very happy with how it turned out,” Orr said. “Our goal with this film was to make enough money to finance making another one. We made it with R4 million. In comparison, the South African film, Hansie, cost around R40 million.”

So, what’s it all about? Briefly, The Unforgiving tells the story of two survivors who are the only links that the authorities have to a spate of horrific attacks in rural South Africa. Neither is willing to talk about their ­experiences and it takes a face-to-face encounter with a monster for one of the detectives investigating the case to understand how grave the situation is.

If you want to find out more, then check out the film’s trailer at or the film’s group site on Facebook.

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