“In the end, the forest doesn’t push you out, it kicks you out.”

It’s the 1930’s in the Knysna Forest of South Africa and there are groups of people who live out here, away from the modern big city. They are happy to be living on the land and as a community of their own. Karoliena Kapp (Elani Dekker) is an educated young woman who lives in the forest, where she communes with the trees and help the others around her. It is around this time that the government decides to step in and ‘gently encourage’ them to leave as the land has become protected.

Johannes Stander (Stiaan Smith) is an old forest dweller and when returning to his old neighborhood he runs into Karoliena. He feels a sense of duty to rescue her from this life and proposes marriage and a new life that comes with it. However, life in the city is not an easy adjustment for her and after careful consideration and support from her husband, she returns to the forest and goes back to helping out the community while she still can.

People suck. The rich (and white) see the forestpeople as parasites whom the government shouldn’t be wasting their resources on. While the forestpeople are happy with what they have, they take care of each other and form their own bonds. Money doesn’t buy happiness or class. Johannes escapes his old life and attempts to rescue Karoliena to protect her from what she could become. But she is the better, caring person who never wanted to fit in in the first place.

Adapted from a novel by Dalene Matthee, writer/director Rene van Rooyen weaves a tale of self discovery and appreciation of what you have right in front of you. While everyone was content with what they had, gaining status and becoming part of the elite means that you have to abandon your old life. Stellar performances from the two leads and beautifully photographed in South Africa, this film could have been paced a little better, but the journey our leads go on is a tender one that eventually leads to them returning home and realizing that you can not deny your past.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

South African Film Festival 2021 will screen TOORBOS on May 16th. Tickets and more information are available HERE

SAFF 2021 Review – Toorbos

Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), May 6, 2021. Rating: TBC. Running time: 120 min.

PRODUCTION: A The Film Factory production. Producers: André Scholtz, Dries Scholtz. Executive producers: Danie Bester, Mahomed Cassim, Jan du Plessis, Wikus du Toit, Asgar Mahomed, Karen Meiring, Anneke Villet, Kaye Ann Williams. 

CREW: Director/writer: Rene Van Rooyen (based on the novel by Dalene Matthee). Cinematography: Brendan Barnes. Editing: Ronelle Loots, Dries Scholtz. Music: Andries Smit.

CAST: Elani Dekker, Stiaan Smith, Ira Blanckenberg, Clare Marshall, Ivan Abrahams, Gretchen Ramsden, Dirk Vermeulen, Pauler Eilers, Andre Odendaal, Lida Botha.

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