A multi-award winning, Cape Town's prolific film director, Riaan Hendricks weaves into a rich tapestry of storytelling moments engrossed in the delicate elements of his creations. He wavers on motions of a constant struggle to engage audiences with emotional landscapes of life characters and stories into the beyond of everyday lives. His latest film follows the 110-year old Ramothopo and his 99-year-old wife, Anna.
He initiated his ‘sterling directorial debut’ into the world of documentary with ‘A Fisherman’s tale in 2004.
His celebrated work constantly pushes the boundaries laid out in the documentary genre. Riaan is currently completing his Masters in Film at the Universtiy of Cape Town( UCT). Skype: riaanhendricks | Twitter: @filmseason Vimeo: riaanhendricksfilm | Facebook: riaanhendricks
A Fisherman’s Tale (2004) “…reminds me of the art of Picasso and Diego Riviera, who had used their art to animate the condition of the working people and their dignity”
– Professor Ben Turok, Independent Newspapers.
His film “The Devils Lair (2013) was received critical acclaim and was played on almost all the continents receiving multiple film awards.
- Best Documentary World Cinema Award at the New Zealand International
- Documentary Edge Festival 2014
- Best Documentary Feature Award SAFTA’s 2014
- Best Documentary Feature Editor Award SAFTA’s 2014
- Jury Special Mention Documentary, Luxor Film Festival, 2014
- Best South African Documentary Feature, JOZI FILM FEST 2014
- Best South African Feature Documentary, Screen Excellence Award, 2013
- Jury Special Mention at the 24th Festival Cinema Africano Asia Latin Americana, 2014
Meet CreatepreneurAfrica’s profound South African filmmaker, Riaan Hendriks
What is your latest film all about?
My latest film is titled “Ramothopo the Centenarian”. It’s story of what it takes to return the love and care to 110-year old Ramothopo old and Anna his 99-year-old wife – who for generations played a vital role in their family and community.
In her younger years, Anna spent her younger life as a prophetess and healer. Leprosy was amongst many of the sicknesses she knew how to cure. She assisted many barren women to have children.
Even the mentally ill were lined up at her door for help. It’s not easy to judge her age from gauging her intelligent conversations. This woman she is strong – and surpassing 100 is nothing new in their family.
Their home was always a refuge to those in need of help.
Ramothopo was a preacher over hundreds of people. It’s his feeble state that compelled his granddaughter to spend more time with him in what seems to be the last years of his life. She’d leave her Cape Town family behind and journey the 1800km trip with 2 year old Anushka to attend to Ramothopo – whom she calls her dad. Her own dad passed away when she was still very young.
The film itself is a heart-warming experience. We all have a Ramothopo and an Anna in our lives. And if time permits – we too will find ourselves where they are. After watching the film – you’ll never look at life quite the same again.
How did you finance the film?
This is one of the most expensive films i’ve made in recent years. It’s also my longest. The cost cannot be translated into cash value – since it’s entirely funded with passion, handwork, and perhaps diligence. Usually, you’d go out and look for money before you film – or when you are in the edit. This film, however – was never meant to be a film. Initially, I was merely taken by the contrast between my two-year-old daughter and her interaction with her great-grandparents. I chose to film it for memories keep shake.
However – the more I filmed, the harder it became to confront the themes as it manifested itself.
I’m of sound mind and healthy body. To confront the realities of feebleness, old age and the dependence on love and care is the hardest I’ve ever filmed. Yet it’s in the very struggle of processing the themes and translating it into meaning that a film gets born. From experience, I know that is how all my films are done. It’s in your heart where the film gets born.
Thus every time we went to Botlokwa, i’d film. And the more I filmed – the more the humanness of feebleness, madness, and love emerged.
A life experience that changes you often makes a good film. This film changed me. I could not walk away from it without translating it into cinema and be titling it “Ramothopo the Centenarian”.
Where to from here?
Well, the film was finished a few days before the Encounters International Documentary Film Festival. The festival itself has always been the home ground of South African documentary cinema. So I’m thankful for their continued support of my work over the years. But with the Ramothopo, I truly thought that this time around they will be rejecting my work!
The film has possibly the longest documentary film shot that I know of. It’s a black and white film. It’s about old age. Yet, the maturity of their film selection and their ability to appreciate documentary cinema implies that South African documentary has a great future under their curatorship. So long live Encounters!
Obviously, we’d like to have the film broadcast. It is the centenary year of Nelson Mandela. If ever a film reflects the lives of our ordinary aged and feeble – this is the one.
I’m hoping a broadcaster will pick it up – so that we can translate some of the sweat, blood, and tears into bread, butter and attend to some requests their granddaughter has for her grandparents.
What advice do you give to aspiring creative is who look up to you?
It’s in the heart. That’s’ where it starts. Follow your instinct – even if it makes little sense. It’s not supposed to make sense – you are a filmmaker, not an actuary. If the final product has no resonance with your audience – move over to the next film. It’s a combination of your external physical craft and your internal filmmaker’s voice being honed. If the festival or funder rejects your work. Cry loud. Wipe your tears soldier. Eventually – it will all come together. You have to explore and discover through your cinematic choices who you really are.
And you have to push it. When you are young – it’s easy to close doors with your restless passion and vocal conflicting ideas. It’s fine. Let them close the doors. If you are able to stand up for what you believe and go hungry for it. Do it. It will only shape your character resulting in better work down the line.
When was the first time you were paid for your passion?
My first real paid job was when the National Film and Video Foundation funded my 26-minute documentary “A Fisherman’s Tale (2003).” When you consider how these guys are developing our industry, making huge financial investments in our development as film-makers – often granting us the license to explore our medium: regardless of its commercial value. We should applaud them for it.
Storytelling is an act of culture – their commitment ensured great vibrancy thereof. Furthermore, they managed to create a conducive environment to grow our talent and industry. If only our public broadcaster could come to the table in the same way. Could you imagine what positive impact that would have on the emergence of South African cinema?