BY BILLY SUTER
A LOCAL, slow-burning thriller co-produced by Greig Buckle and Durban’s Anant Singh has been selected as the closing movie of the Durban International Film Festival which, now in its 41st year, has been running online since September 10 and closes on September 20.
The film, set in a post-apocalyptic world, is Dust, written and directed by relative newcomer Pieter du Plessis. It teams Shana Mans, Michelle Bradshaw and Kaz McFadden in a tale which has Mans as Rachel who, together with her traumatised family, find asylum at a remote farmstead in a barren landscape.
There she believes the family has found a place to rest before moving on again, until the matriarch of the farm asks her to marry one of her sons. This sets off a cascade of clashing allegiances and ideologies that becomes more and more constricting to the young woman, her disabled father and adopted little brother.
Johannesburg director Du Plessis says he was inspired to write Dust about a year-and-a-half ago, specifically so that he could direct the film himself.
“I decided to do a nice, self-contained thriller with as few characters as possible that I could get away with and still make the story interesting, he adds, pointing out that he had the idea to set the film in a single location.
Half of the cast are very well-known Afrikaans actors, was that a conscious decision?
Says Du Plessis: “I come from a background as an assistant director and project manager on mostly Afrikaans films. So I knew a lot of Afrikaans actors and didn’t really know a lot of the English actors. So it kind of turned out that way. I knew what they could do and that they were great.
“Most of these Afrikaans actors don’t always get a chance to do this genre and they were really excited to get involved. It was something completely different for them, which is great, because their enthusiasm is palpable.”
Initially the idea was to set the film in the Karoo, where there are wide open desert-spaces with very stark landscapes. But the problem was that if one shoots in barely inhabited locations it becomes very expensive, very quickly.
“We realised that that might not be the best way to go about it. So Darrell Roodt suggested going on a drive around the Cradle-of-Humankind. He showed me a place and I immediately thought: this doesn’t need the Karoo. The film can actually be shot right here.
“There is something wonderfully bleak about the Highveld in winter. The grass is dry. There are things burning everywhere. The plants are all full of the red dust you get there. And there is something really post-apocalyptic about that.
“The location we decided on in the end was a much more realistic view of what the world might look like after an apocalyptic event.”
Producer Greig Buckle views Dust as a very clear genre picture that has a great story, “and it’s quite relevant at the moment with the two strong female leads”.
His expectations for the film?
“To get recognition for the South African film industry and to break out of the run-of-the-mill kind of films that you normally expect to come out of Africa, because this isn’t one of them. There is no tie-in to Africa whatsoever. This is not a South African or African story – it is a universal story.”
The Durban International Film Festival has curated a programme of 60 shorts, documentaries and feature films. The plots in the selected films, through different lenses, show contemporary relevance to the challenges currently faced by the world which has, over the last years, progressively begun to interrogate history to right wrongs and restore human dignity to previously disenfranchised populaces.
The full programme is accessible at ccadiff.ukzn.ac.za. Tickets for the virtual screenings are only available from South Africa and free, and accessible through a booking system.
The event is organised by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, in partnerships and with the support of Durban Film Office, eThekwini Municipality, National Film and Video Foundation, KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, KZN Department of Arts and Culture and other valued funders and partners.