Crystal-Donna Roberts in Krotoa. (Photo: Uwe Jansch)
Crystal-Donna Roberts in Krotoa. (Photo: Uwe Jansch)

What it's about:

Krotoa, a feisty, bright, young 11-year-old girl, is removed from her close-knit Khoi tribe to serve Jan van Riebeeck, her uncle’s trading partner. She is brought into the first Fort established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652. There, she grows into a visionary young woman who assimilates into the Dutch language and culture so well that she rises to become an influential interpreter for van Riebeeck. While van Reibeeck became the first Governor of the Cape Colony, Krotoa was both rejected by her own Khoi people and destroyed by the Dutch when she tried to find the middle road between the two cultures.

What we thought:

Krotoa has been causing a buzz on the international festival circuit. With eight awards under its belt it is one of the most talked about South African films.

It is deserving of all those awards – it tells a part of South Africa’s history that has never been told on the big screen.

I had never heard about Krotoa before seeing the film. A quick survey of my peers and parents heeded the same result. 

Krotoa is not an easy watch but it is a necessary watch – it explores colonialism, race, sexual violence and identity.

Inspired by historical facts it tells the story of Krotoa, the niece of Harry Die Strandloper. When she was about 11-years-old she goes to live at the fort as a handmaid for Jan van Riebeeck’s (Armand Aucamp) wife. 

There she is given a new name, Eva and taught the Dutch culture and language.

As a young woman she becomes an interpreter and mediator between the Dutch and the Khoi.

The film is told in three parts: her childhood, her rise as Van Riebeeck’s interpreter and her sad demise when she is rejected by both the Dutch and the Khoi. 

The strength of this film is largely due to the brilliant Crystal Donna-Roberts as the older Krotoa. 

She gives a nuanced performance of a woman who is caught between two cultures and her own ambitions. 

Great care went into the Khoi representation; the cast who played the roles learned the Khoi language for authenticity. 

This film is not only Krotoa's story, it is also the story of the Khoi people whose land was pillaged which resulted in a breakdown in their traditional way of life and reduced them to second class citizens in their own country. 

A sore point for me though was the sympathetic portrayal of Jan Van Riebeeck. 

Krotoa is a thought provoking film that will stay with you long after the credits roll. This film is a must-see for all South Africans and hopefully it will start start a dialogue about the untold history of indigenous people.

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