Elim’s extras to finally see 'Krotoa'

13 October 2017 - 19:51 By Leonie Wagner

Oswin Hess and his horses landed their first role in a film‚ Krotoa‚ which has since won nine international awards. But months after its local release he and the other extras and residents in his village have not seen the film.

The film was shot in Elim‚ a missionary town in the Agulhas region of the Western Cape. Hess‚ along with almost 60 other villagers‚ were cast as extras or involved in the production of the film. Three of Hess’s horses and his cattle were also used in the film and‚ although Hess had a non-speaking role‚ he starred alongside some of the film’s lead actors.

“It was a little stressful because I was working with the horse and with animals [and] they don’t always do what you need them to do. But it was also exciting working with people that you’ve only ever seen on TV‚” he said.

This weekend‚ the film’s director‚ Roberta Durrant‚ will screen Krotoa in the Elim community hall. Speaking to the Sunday Times ahead of the screening‚ Hess said everyone in Elim was excited to watch the film because the nearest cinema was almost a three-hour drive‚ a trip that not everyone could afford to make.

Aware of the inability of audiences in some parts of South Africa to go to cinemas Durrant said it was “only right” that this special screening take place‚ given the extent of the Elim community’s involvement.

Krotoa will also be screened at the Toronto South Africa International Film Festival this weekend‚ as the gala night opening film.

Back home‚ the film‚ which enjoyed a seven-week run in cinemas‚ was criticised by audiences who said the story had been “white-washed” and labelled it an “insult” to the heritage of the Khoisan people.

Durrant said: “We always knew the film would spark debate - that was the objective. The film does raise very real issues and many people had an emotional reaction to the film and that is good.”

The film’s writer‚ KayeAnn Williams‚ who described the project as “ambitious”‚ said her intention was to create discourse and an awareness of an important character in history. As a coloured woman‚ Williams said she was compelled to tell this story because of the misconception and negativity towards coloured people’s culture.

“Krotoa is a symbol for women of colour. Women in history are often portrayed as the sidekicks to their male counterparts and she does not just belong to the coloured community; she belongs to the white Afrikaans and the black Xhosa community. Krotoa is a shared ancestor and‚ in a time where people are divided‚ Krotoa is a symbol of unity and hope‚” Williams said. Crystal-Donna Roberts‚ who plays Krotoa‚ said what was of greater significance than international accolades was that the stories of indigenous people were being told.

“We are definitely not telling enough of these stories. Even those who criticised the movie said we should tell more of these stories‚” Roberts said.

Durrant said this could be because of the misconception that South Africans weren’t interested in their heritage. Williams added that more of these types of stories need to be told‚ and that these contributions needed to be “more aggressive”.

“I see my contribution to that story as one brush stroke on a canvas that is blank‚” Williams said.