In Brett Michael Innes‘ adaptation of Dalene Matthee‘s classic novel, a coloured woman living in the dried up valley, Karoo, takes in a lost white child and raises him as her own. Nine years later, the boy is removed and forced to live in the Knysna Forest with a family of woodcutters who claim that he is theirs.

Fiela Se Kind is entirely in Afrikaans, a language you barely hear in modern cinema. The film won Best Feature Film & Best Achievement in Scriptwriting at the 2020 South African Film and Television Awards, but what’s striking within a matter of minutes, is the undeniably slick cinematography. Tom Marais (Hunter Killer) moves his camera with such finesse, it almost feels as if you’re part of the Komoetie-family. He has a way of capturing each and everyone of the talented cast’s emotions while paying attention to the atmospheric locations they find themselves in. Sure, there aren’t many different locations to be found, which feels a bit monotone at times, but this definitely doesn’t undermine the craftsmanship that’s been put into this.

After an officer visits Fiela (Zenobia Kloppers) and her family for a census of the country, little Benjamin (Luca Bornman) will soon face court to be reunited with his “rightful” parents. What follows is a series of problems that goes far beyond these two families and stretches throughout the nation. Segregation, racism and the violence that comes with it, causes for a heartbreaking story about the unbreakable love of a mother for her child.

Kloppers and Bornman’s performances are what makes Fiela Se Kind‘s heart beat. Their dynamic is something rarely seen between a full grown actor and a child actor, but feels genuinely real. Kloppers specifically acts with her entire body and face, she never holds back as a mother who’s becoming more and more desperate to get reunited with her son.

The runtime of the film doesn’t work in its favour. Clocking in at two hours, there’s a couple of moments where the story drags, more specifically when we find ourselves in the forest with the Van Rooyen-family. Child abuse and animal cruelty are put in place to shock viewers but doesn’t contribute to the plot whatsoever. When the overly dramatic score strings in one too many times, it becomes quite tiring to sit through something that is already emotionally heavy as it is. It’s actually Fiela Se Kind‘s more quiet scenes, in which there is barely any dialogue, that are the most effective.

A timeless story for all ages that isn’t just important but also has something to say. Family can be chosen, no matter what skin colour or social background you have.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fiela Se Kind‘ will premiere at Sydney South African Film Festival on Sunday 17 May at 7 PM AEST (GMT +10) and you can also catch a repeat screening on Monday 18 May at 3 PM AEST (GMT +10).

Tickets are available on https://ssaff.org.au/film-2020/fiela-se-kind/

SSAFF Review – ‘Fiela Se Kind’

Reviewed online (also screening as part of Sydney South African Film Festival), May 14, 2020. Rating: G. Running time: 120 min.

PRODUCTION: A KykNET, Nostalgia Productions, The Film Factory production. Producers: Danie Bester, Brett Michael Innes. Executive producers: Jan du Plessis, Wikus du Toit, Anneke Villet.

CREW: Director/screenplay: Brett Michael Innes (based on the novel by Dalene Matthee). Camera: Tom Marais. Editor: C.A. van Aswegen.

WITH: Zenobia Kloppers, Luca Bornman, Wayne Smith, Carla Classen, Drikus Volschenk, Cindy Swanepoel, Melissa Willering, Wayne Van Rooyen, Gerald Steyn, Morne Steyn.

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