Follows four generations of South African Boers as they grapple with their identity as white farmers in a post-Apartheid South Africa, where land ownership is highly contentious and ...
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Follows four generations of South African Boers as they grapple with their identity as white farmers in a post-Apartheid South Africa, where land ownership is highly contentious and violence and racism are endemic.Written by
Annalet Steenkamp's examination of post-apartheid Afrikaner identity through the lens of her own family is, by turns, fascinating, shocking, moving and curious. It is perhaps its unevenness that I found distracting, though its approach to the material is never less than interesting.
Steenkamp films her extended family on various farms in the Free State as they deal with the exigencies of life on isolated farms, from the economic pressure on farmers, to labour management and the pervasive threat of violence and death. People are married, children are born, some die peacefully and some are murdered brutally. Steenkamp's voice is often heard asking questions of her relations, though she herself remains something of a cypher, a filmmaker amongst salt-of-the-earth farmers and so something of an outsider.
The struggle she captures is the desire to maintain a way of life that is partly mythological - a land bequeathed by God - and partly very human: where will I go and what will I do if I don't live and work on the farm. She captures the idealism of the young and the bitter, casual racism of the older generations, along with the strange paradoxes that lead one character to angrily denounce interracial relationships yet fondly celebrate the relationship she shares with the gardener who helps her tend her garden.
The style is revelatory and, at times almost impressionistic, with key events signalled by natural phenomena and stylised compositions. At one point, I felt like I was watching the ominous scenes just before the locust plague in Malick's Days of Heaven. Some viewers might find these choices irritating, especially as they occur alongside several other shooting styles from hand- held camera to de-centered interviews. I enjoyed the experimental approach, though, even when it didn't work. What I'm less certain about is Steenkamp's open-endedness and strange distance from the subjects, as if she can't quite decide to be there or not be there.
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