Silver screen for ‘skollie’

2016-08-30 10:08
A 71-year-old Strandfontein man is proving that perseverance is key to success. John W Fredericks turned from a life of crime and is now living his dream of being a writer and a movie he wrote about his life will hit the big screen in September.

A 71-year-old Strandfontein man is proving that perseverance is key to success. John W Fredericks turned from a life of crime and is now living his dream of being a writer and a movie he wrote about his life will hit the big screen in September. (Samantha Lee)

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It has been years in the making, but his dream of being a writer is finally being realised.

John W. Fredericks (71) now lives in Strandfontein it has been a long journey to finally having his story told through a movie he wrote. The movie, Noem my Skollie, will soon hit the silver screen.
Born in Kewtown in 1945 he recalls a hard life growing up on the Cape Flats.

“It was a violent place. My father was a dustman and he was illiterate and always wanted me to read and write so he would pick up books for me to read on the refuse dump,” says Fredericks.

His love for reading stemmed from this early encounter.
And he found himself spending a lot of time at the dump. He describes it as a scene out of the Wild West, with horses, wagons and a miss mash of various recreational activities.

“In our time there were no heroes. Our idols were these street fighters who beat each other to a pulp, so many of us aspired to be like them,” says Fredericks.

“Some rose above those childhood fantasies but for others it become a right of passage. Leaving behind a legacy of heartache and shattered dreams.”

And through these influences, he and his friends signed a pact. “I did not realise at the time that we had formed a gang. By the next day someone sprayed our name on the wall and we were looked at as a group and we were accused as a group,” he says.

They were called the Young Ones.
He had been in and out of trouble since that day and at the age of 14 he received his first lashes.

“At that moment I was labelled as a skollie,” he says.

For the next year he had several other encounters with the law and at 15 he had the words “Mr Crime” tattooed on his arm.

“I was always the best storyteller and at school I was always the best at writing competitions. For me, I was going to be a writer but something happened to me at that refuse dump,” says Fredericks.

“It started with cops and robbers and I always wanted to be the bad guy.”

After another run in with the law, the magistrate decided that lashes would no longer be effective and Fredericks was tried as an adult. He was sent to Pollsmoor at the age of 17.

He recalls it being a sobering moment. Going from being a big gun to being made to feel like nothing.

“I was nothing but a number on a ticket,” he says.

He recalls the way he and his friend were looked at.

“When we went in the guard shouted ‘hier is twee Christmas hampers vir julle’.”

They were beat up and after refusing to be raped he was beaten again repeatedly. It would be his way with words that saved him in the end.

“They wanted me to take the number, but I refused,” he says.

He offered them a service to write letters and tell stories. “I would tell stories and if I told a bad story I would need to take the number,” he says.

His blood and sweat remain in the foundation of the prison and he vowed never to go back.

But when he was released two years later it became easier said than done.

“I showered and changed my clothes. I was called because everyone wanted to hear about my time in prison. I had status now,” he says.

They had an encounter with outsiders and after an altercation he and his friends each grabbed a weapon ready to defend a friend.

“I grabbed an axe and we started running to the alley. There was a girl sitting on the porch. I did not know her name. As I ran past her she said: ‘Jy kom nou net uit die tronk uit’. In that moment I changed direction and went home. It was a turning point for me and for the first time on a Saturday night I went to bed early,” he says.

Although it was a rough road, that girl later became his wife of 50 years.
“Trouble followed me,” he says.

But he was determined to make something of his writing career. He joined a writing group he read about in the Metroburger.

He recalls feeling out of place but it was a night that changed his life.

Melvin Witbooi from Die Burger translated one of his stories that was published in the Metroburger. This was followed by a 13 part series translated and published in Die Burger.

His stories also won an award in New York.

“I told many stories but I did not want to tell this one,” he says.

After a trip to Italy for a film festival he started his script and in 2000 he met with the producer of the film David Mc Brown.

He loved the script and together they applied for funding to have the movie made.

But the road was not easy. Over 60-years-old he was made to attend a writer’s course. And everyday he wanted to give up.

He gave up his job to pursue a career in writing at the age of 50 and his perseverance paid off when in 2011 the local film authority gave him R200 000 to start the process.

He was told that a script writer would need to redo the script but Fredericks stuck to his guns.
And in 2013 processes were in motion.
The movie was filmed over five weeks last year.

“People told me I couldn’t but my family believed in me and I believed I could and look now almost 20-years later we are hitting the big screen,” he says.

The film is also making history having been first aired in Pollsmoor.
His script is dedicated to his son who was murdered.

“Never give up on your dreams,” he says.

And through his determination and the love and support if all those who believed he could do it, 2016 is the year all his dreams will come true.

His movie, Noem my Skollie, will be in cinemas from Friday 2 September.

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