What it's about:
Successful Bloemfontein businessman Danie du Toit’s doorbell rings in the middle of the night. It’s the stepdaughter he hasn’t seen in years, and she’s seeking revenge. This is the poignant tale of the abuse of Anna Bruwer by her stepfather over a period of eight years. ‘Silent Anna,’ she called herself, because she could not tell anyone about her twilight world of shame, threats and coercion.
What we thought:
The opening scene of Dis ek, Anna (It’s me, Anna) speaks volumes. On the picturesque open roads of rural South Africa, a woman drives her bakkie and listens to the cheerful voice of an auntie on radio talking about truth and lies, warmly and idiomatically drawing in her small town audience.
But dark clouds are gathering and the driver, Anna, fumbles as she lights a cigarette. In a strong, measured performance from Charlene Brouwer, it becomes clear that Anna is an emotional wreck.
Beneath the surface of the perfect Afrikaner setting lies a terrible unease. It’s not a spoiler to say that Anna is heading towards the home of her mother and stepfather with the intention of shooting him in cold blood. He systematically raped her during her teenage years twice or three times a week.
Based on a book that has been prescribed in Afrikaans schools for some time, Anna is a true story written by Anchien Troskie under the pseudonym Elbie Lötter. She revealed her identity after receiving a flood of letters from readers asking for help because they were being sexually abused too, or knew of someone who was. Don’t we all in this country? The film has the potential to make the same impact.
And it’s not just for Afrikaans speakers. Its tale is universal and will resonate with black audiences too. (Just to be sure it offers a secondary storyline playing out in Bloemfontein’s coloured community.)
Flashing back in time it unpacks the emotional trauma and very real consequence of sexual abuse on young Anna (superbly played by newcomer Izel Bezuidenhout) at the lecherous hands of her stepfather (just as superbly played by Morne Visser in what has to be the most difficult role of his career). As Anna veers off the tracks she has no-one to speak to and her secret grows like a cancer beneath her rebellious exterior. The older Anna must try and find healing as she faces a court trial.
Beat by beat, blow by blow Blecher and her committed team have stared into darkness without flinching. It may be a classic, non-experimental film, but Blecher – proves her directorial skills. Aside from the technical success of Anna, she has built a world of trust with her cast, who lay themselves emotionally bare in the film, even the hardened old cop played by Marius Weyers.
Here is the antidote to the romping romcom that the Afrikaans industry so heartily embraces all the way to the box office. It's closer to Oliver Hermanus' genius film Skoonheid (Beauty) but a very different project.
Anna is going to rattle cages and open the debate, especially if it gets to be shown in schools. The sex scenes are handled non-graphically to win the broadest audience possible. There is no doubt that the team has set out to try and tackle a social taboo, to help break the silence.