'I have life': Film about Alison Botha's ordeal first SA movie to show at prestigious US festival

By Petrus Malherbe
10 June 2016

'Alison' is making waves in Hollywood.

'Alison' is making waves in Hollywood.

The documentary is the first South African movie to be shown at Los Angeles’ prestigious Dances With Films film festival. Several critics have selected the film, about the dramatic attack and rape of Alison Botha from Port Elizabeth more than 20 years ago, as their favourite entry in this year’s festival. Dances With Films showcases films by independent producers featuring unknown writers, directors and actors.

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“It’s massive!” the writer and director of Alison, Uga Carlini, tells us from Hollywood. She and the star of Alison, Christia Visser, are there to market the movie.

Uga insists her film isn’t a documentary in the traditional sense of the word as it contains fantasy elements, animation and archive material, and many parts were recreated using actors.

Read more: ‘It was horrific and scary and wrong – but I survived’: Alison Botha’s brutal kidnapping and rape documented in new movie

“The movie has a bit of everything,” Uga explains. “I’m so proud that our film is the first South African production to be selected for this festival.”

The events of the terrible night in 1994 when Theuns Kruger and Frans du Toit abducted Alison, raped her, stabbed her repeatedly with a knife and cut her throat, gripped South Africans – especially as Alison not only survived the brutal attack but decided to become a motivational speaker and use her experience to inspire others.

Alison and award-winning journalist Marianne Thamm also wrote a book about the events, titled I Have Life. It was recently re-released.

Uga says she had to ask Alison repeatedly for the film rights to her story. After she finally agreed Uga decided tell her story in a unique documentary style that incorporates fantasy. “The previous time I was in Los Angeles, a few years ago, I told everyone about this film. Now I’m here with the finished product,” she says proudly.

It’s Christia’s first overseas trip. “Hollywood is a buzz,” she says. “Wherever you go there’s something going on.”

She says she and Uga have visited well-known landmarks like Sunset Boulevard and Rodeo Drive, where Julia Roberts’ evergreen hit Pretty Woman was filmed.

But Christia, who was recently nominated for two Huisgenoot Tempo awards, doesn’t plan to leave South Africa for Hollywood anytime soon.

“It’s actually funny how Hollywood doesn’t leave much of an impression. You expect all this gold and confetti but it’s all just totally normal, expensive shops.”

“It was nice to be close to the action but South Africa is still where my heart is.”

Alison’s festival screening is on Saturday evening and Christia and Uga will return home next week. Meanwhile they’re exploring the streets of Los Angeles and chatting to influential people.

But Christia says Hollywood’s major stars don’t like to show their faces in public. “We’re going to be at the premiere of (new animated movie) Finding Dory. Hopefully we’ll be able to corner (chat-show host) Ellen DeGeneres and tell her about Alison!”

Following the serious Alison, Uga says her next project will be a comedy. Christia has just finished shooting a new season of the series Die Bolandmoorde for kykNET.

Alison opens in local theatres on 12 August.

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