6 user 3 critic

The Story of an African Farm (2004)

The 1870's. South Africa. Life is normal at the farm on the slopes of a Karoo Kopje. Fat Tant Sannie (Karin van der Laag) looks after her charges, the sweet Em (Anneke Weidemann) and the ... See full synopsis »


David Lister

On Disc

at Amazon




Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard E. Grant ... Bonaparte Blenkins
Armin Mueller-Stahl ... Otto
Karin van der Laag ... Tant Sannie
Kasha Kropinski ... Lyndall
Luke Gallant Luke Gallant ... Waldo
Anneke Weidemann Anneke Weidemann ... Em
Elriza Swanepoel Elriza Swanepoel ... Trana
Nichol Petersen Nichol Petersen ... Tant Sannie's Maid
Abbe-Gail Hartogh Abbe-Gail Hartogh ... Maid 2
Linda Louw Linda Louw ... Maid 3
Chris-Jan Steenkamp Chris-Jan Steenkamp ... Sheep Shearer
Ibrahim Adams Ibrahim Adams ... Blacksmith
Clive Smith Clive Smith ... Labourer1
Jan Bobbejee Jan Bobbejee ... Farm Labourer 2
Willem Saulse Willem Saulse ... Farm Labourer 2


The 1870's. South Africa. Life is normal at the farm on the slopes of a Karoo Kopje. Fat Tant Sannie (Karin van der Laag) looks after her charges, the sweet Em (Anneke Weidemann) and the independent Lyndall (Kasha Kropinski), with a strict Biblical hand - it was Em's father's dying wish. Gentle Otto (Armin), the farm manager, runs the farm and cares for Waldo, his son. Waldo (Luke Gallant) is bright, and busy building a model of a sheep-shearing machine that he hopes will make them all rich. Things change when the sinister, eccentric Bonaparte Blenkins (Richard E. Grant) with bulbous nose and chimney pot hat arrives. Their childhood is disrupted by the bombastic Irishman who claims blood ties with Wellington and Queen Victoria and so gains uncanny influence over the girls' gross stupid stepmother, Tant Sannie.

As the story of Lyndall, Em and Waldo unfolds to its touching end, we learn not merely of a backwater in colonial history, but of the whole human condition.

Armin Cruz's intense ...

Add Full Plot | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

based on novel | See All (1) »


Drama | Family

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements and brief mild language



USA | South Africa



Release Date:

8 October 2004 (South Africa) See more »

Also Known As:

Bustin' Bonaparte: The Story of an African Farm See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Rodini Films See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

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User Reviews

My review
28 November 2004 | by silverocelot2001See all my reviews

Having studied this film in my Grade 12 year, I was sad to find what an inaccurate depiction of a novel it is.

For one thing, the film only portrays the first half of the book. This half merely serves as an introduction, which develops the lead characters as children; however, it only makes a few suggestions to the key themes of the book. The second develops these themes greatly. The two main themes are the facets of indoctrinated religion and feminism, both of which were disregarded by the film. What's more, Bonaparte Blenkins is a minor character in the book. I'm not that shocked that his character was seen as being so important in the film though as he is, arguably, played by the 'biggest' actor in the cast, Richard E. Grant. Still, Grant does portray his role excellently. The problem is that his "Dickenson-type" performance over-stages all the other actors' performances, with the exception of Armin Mueller-Stahl, whose depiction of Otto is impressive. Karin van der Laag's performance is awfully 'cardboard-like,' and I was not convinced by her attempted Afrikaans accent.

Just the character of Waldo is evidence enough for me to deem the film inaccurate. He is supposed to be an emotionally disturbed child, who is deeply obsessed with religious gratification, yet this is poorly conveyed as many of the plot details pertaining to his character in the book have been removed, or fabricated to make the film more family-orientated. Also, another fabrication is that Lyndall is supposed to be vastly prettier than Em, yet in the book, there is no clear distinction in the two characters' depictions. Never before have I witnessed such an altered ending in a book being transformed into a film.

What's more, one of the most acclaimed sections of the book, 'the hunter short story,' which was actually published as a separate work, is not at all established in the film.

I wonder whether or not the filmmakers and/or actors had the 'chops' to perform the second half of the book successfully. I highly doubt it, as the second part is dramatically complicated and I do not believe that such an inexperienced crew would have been able to make an attempt at realising it. Such a film is a poor depiction of one the most important books in South African literary history and this saddens me. Not to mention, the cinematography is not particularly effective, either. Yes, the book may have been altered to widen its audience to one involving "the whole family" but I feel this was a mistake and that if the filmmakers wanted to portray a South African family-film, they should have chosen a different novel.

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