The Story of Racheltjie de Beer

Zonika de Vries in 'The Story of Racheltjie de Beer'. (Indigenous Films)
Zonika de Vries in 'The Story of Racheltjie de Beer'. (Indigenous Films)


South African wilderness 1800's. Five years after their mother died, Rachel, a girl on the cusp of adolescence and 5-year-old Jamie find themselves on their way to the virgin gold fields with their father, Herman, as he tries to start a new life. When Jamie goes missing in a freak snow blizzard, Rachel braves the storm to look for her little brother.


The first time I heard about the story of Racheltjie de Beer, I was in primary school. I had a lot of questions after hearing her tragic story.

Like who was she before the events unfolded, what games did she like to play, did she have any friends and where were her parents? All we ever knew about her was that she sacrificed her life for her younger brother.

Did I think she was a heroine? Ten-year-old me was extremely sad that she died, and years later, after seeing the movie on the big screen 35-year-old me was even sadder.

Writer Brett Micheal Innes and director Matthys Boshoff have created a compelling, thought-provoking backstory for young Racheltjie that answered all of 10-year-old me's questions.

But seeing this movie through the eyes of an adult makes me realise just how heavy and unfair the weight of looking after a younger sibling is when you are a child. For me, it was a particularly difficult film to watch (perhaps I am a sensitive viewer).

While it is a coming of age story, it is also a multigenerational story, which helps in exploring the theme of family.

Marius Weyers and Sandra Prinsloo play George and Jacoba a couple in their senior years. Antoinette Louw plays Sara, their daughter, who has resigned herself to taking care of her parents.

Stian Bam is Herman, Racheltjie's father who is battling his own demons and finds solace at the bottom of a bottle.

Racheltjie played by Zonika de Vries has a keen interest in sketching and clings to the memory of her mother through the teachings she gave her about plants. Her mother (Beáte Opperman) appears as a ghost heightening the mystery surrounding her.

Through the use of striking imagery, clever storytelling and a stellar cast, the film will leave you a bit haunted. The film has an eery feel to it, and you can feel the tension simmering as it builds up to the fatal blizzard.

Boshoff incorporated a mixture of genres using horror elements and magical realism to weave a story that will have you engrossed from start to finish. The CGI used in the film is some of the best I have seen in a local movie.

The star of the movie is without a doubt, 14-year-old Zonika who epitomises Racheltjie beautifully. She gave a nuanced performance of a girl straddling the line between child and adolescence.

The seasoned ensemble cast each gives stand out performances. A must mention for Johannes Jordan, who plays Jamie. This little boy will steal your heart.

The Story of Racheltjie breathes life into the fabled tale; it is a definite must-watch. Be sure to take some tissues with you.