Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Location Recce - Sunday August 26

This past Sunday Michael took a small group of us out to the film's main location - a small house in Jan Hofmeyer Park in Brixton - to discuss various aspects of the shoot. Art director Tiaan van Tonder got the opportunity to see how much work he would have to do to get the place looking the way Michael wants it to. Our DOP Jamie Ramsay got to see the dark & cramped spaces in which he would have to shoot for around 5 weeks. Michael and Natalie spoke to the homeowners - Ernest, his sister Doreen and her truck driver husband - about the alternative living arrangments being made for them for the duration of the shoot: they will move into a caravan that will be placed in their neighbours' backyard. In the meantime, I shot lots of material for the film's "Making of...", and we all marvelled at how closely the entire place - the home where we will shoot, the surrounding neighbourhood and its inhabitants, even the mangy dogs - resembled exactly Marlene van Niekerk's description of the place in her novel.

The effects of grinding poverty are everywhere visible, from the mud-soaked and rubbish-strewn backyard, to the men and women lurching drunkenly across the open field at 11am, to the skinny dirt-covered kids playing with home-made wire toys in the dusty streets.

Now while there are many communities in South Africa that have failed to find their place under the warm sun of the new democratic South Africa, there is something about this place that sets it apart from every other: one has the sense of a place that has truly fallen off the edge of the world. There is not the slightest ounce of hope in these streets.

But I'm quite certain the film will change all that: the homeowners - Ernest & co. - are sweet and humble people, but already they are utterly gobsmacked that their home is to become the prime location for an international feature film. They are talkative and curious and surprised at the fact that anyone would want to point a camera in their direction. Although the other residents mostly ignored us on Sunday, this too will change once cast and crew start moving in and causing a commotion. Then we can expect crowds of curious onlookers. The countdown has begun...

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