Cape Town - A documentary feature film about a century-old community of Afrikaners in a remote region of Patagonia will have its world premiere at the Silwerskerm Festival later this month.
Following the screening of the multiple-SAFTA nominated short film, The Last Boers of Patagonia, in July 2014 as part of the Encounters and Durban International Film Festivals, GOOD WORK has been progressing with production of the 80-minute feature film, The Boers at the End of The World (the Afrikaans subtitled version is being released as Boere op die Aardsdrempel).
In a remote stretch of Patagonia in southern Argentina, there is a 113-year-old community that speaks Afrikaans. After the destruction of their farms during the second Anglo-Boer War, about 650 Boers sailed across the ocean to start a new life between 1902 and 1908. They headed into the arid heart of Patagonia where they found a land that reminded them of the Karoo.
Today, their children and grandchildren still endure in this harsh place. They speak archaic Afrikaans, bake melktert and sing Sarie Marais. But despite their fierce pride in their roots, their culture has been eroded over time and only a few dozen of the oldest individuals still speak their mother tongue.
They struggle to keep their culture alive but are resigned to the knowledge that they are the last generation to speak the language in the region, and they will be gone in a decade or two.
Watch the trailer here:
Says producer Kelly Scott: "One of the toughest parts of this project has been the logistics. I mean – one of the biggest reasons that so many of the Afrikaners in Argentina have never visited South Africa is because Patagonia is really far away from South Africa. What this meant for us is that there was a lot of travelling required to make the film. Across the four trips we made in the space of a year, we’ve taken over 40 flights and driven close on 6000km.
"Having the opportunity to see the landscape in all climate stages gave us a proper taste of what the early pioneers had to deal with though – baking heat, to howling wind, to dust storms, to snow!"
With surnames like van der Merwe, Kruger, Visser, Botha, Myburgh, De Lange, Norval, Henning, Grimbeek and Venter to be found in Argentina, this is a story to which many South Africans are connected.
Osvaldo ‘Koor’ Dickason with his sheep shears, and freshly-slaughtered lamb for lunch on his farm in Patagonia. (Photo: Richard Finn Gregory/GOOD WORK)
Like most good stories, director Richard Finn Gregory heard about the Afrikaans community in Argentina around a braai. "I’m fascinated by our true South African stories – so when I heard about this community, I immediately wanted to know more.
"It took a while to find some sort of entry point into the community but Gregory eventually located Ruben via Facebook who introduced the filmmakers to his parents, Ty and Enriqueta, both of whom speak Afrikaans as their home language.
"We connected really strongly with the families we met and there were some really tearful moments when we were introduced to people for the first time and they found out we were from South Africa. They were overjoyed at being able to speak Afrikaans with people who were going to tell their story and for us, hearing how badly many of them wanted to visit South Africa really struck a chord."
Juan ‘Jan’ Schlebusch setting out at sunrise on his farm in Patagonia. (Photo: Richard Finn Gregory/GOOD WORK)
GOOD WORK ran two crowdfunding campaigns to raise production funds and after the successful screening of the short film last year, M-Net approached the documentary studio to help make the feature-length version a reality. "We were pretty overwhelmed by the response we got. The generosity shown by our crowdfunding supporters demonstrated how much South Africans wanted to see this film reach the screen and the opportunity to partner with M-Net means that we get to share this story with a huge audience," says Scott.
"Through the making of this film, we’ve come across so many other fascinating and lesser-known stories of South African history that really deserve films of their own", says Gregory. "They stem from all of our different cultures and it would be great to see these also come to light at some point."
To purchase tickets to the world premiere at the Silwerskerm Festival on 28 August, click here.