An interracial gay love story set in early 18th century South Africa about two men -- a black prisoner living in a Cape Town penal colony and a Dutch sailor -- who weather injustices as a result of their affair.
A recreation of the decade-long love affair in the 18th century in a Cape Town penal colony on Robben Island. The two lovers were a Dutch sailor imprisoned there for sodomy and a young Khoi herder. The Khoi were part of the Hottentot tribal group and as such were the untouchables of that time. The two were placed on trial and this love affair and the legal battles are the grist of Greyson and Lewis' film based partly on court transcripts from the time. In South Africa, during the 1700s, sodomy was a crime deemed worse than murder, and the fact that these two young men had indulged in it was also complicated by the fact that this was an interracial love affair. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Post-apartheid cinema is characterized by the emergence of new voices and a diversification of themes. For the first time South African audiences are exposed to certain marginalized communities, including gay and lesbian subcultures. An important milestone in South African feature film-making is Jack Lewis's Proteus, the beginning of a visible gay/lesbian cinema in South Africa. Under apartheid gay and lesbian voices in film and television were also silenced. In a seven year study of the depiction of gays and lesbians in African, Asian and Latin American cinema I have noted that homosexual experience is unique in South Africa, precisely because of our history of racial division and subsequent resistance. Based on a true story, PROTEUS is a period film that raises issues still of enormous relevance today. Historian and filmmaker Jack Lewis was fascinated by a court record in the Cape Archives, dated 18 August 1735, giving judgment in the case of two Robben Island prisoners. Dutch sailor Rijkhaart Jacobsz and Khoe convict Class Blank received extreme sentences for what the court called 'the abominable and unnatural crime of Sodomy'. It is an extremely moving experience and forms part of a very small number of South African productions on homosexuality. Despite a new constitution which prohibits discrimination against gays and lesbians, our images of gay men and women are limited and still on the margin of the film industry. One ends up with less than fifteen short films, a few documentaries, less than five features with openly gay and lesbian characters and virtually no television programmes during the past hundred years of South African cinema!
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