The Afrikaans film Meerkat Maantuig is set to be released on the Friday 16 March in cinemas country wide. Meerkat Maantuig was adapted from the youth novel Blinde Sambok by Riana Scheepers and tells the story of a 13 year old girl who thoroughly believes that her family is cursed. Perdeby caught up with UP Ulumna, director and screen-writer of Meerkat Maantuig, Hanneke Schutte.
The film was screened at both the Silwerskerm Fees and the Austin Film Festival in America and received rave reviews at both screenings. What was your first reaction to seeing the amazing response?
It’s been heartwarming to see people’s reactions to the film. In Austin, Texas a lady gave me a note after the first screening telling me how much the film meant to her and thanking me for writing it. I’ve been bombarded with messages from strangers telling me how the film has affected them on a personal level. I’ve also just received a message from a lady who saw the film at the premiere with her teenage son and she said he told her it was the most beautiful film he has ever seen. That coming from a teenage boy. So the film seems to be resonating with young and old and even people overseas who have to read the subtitles. I’m truly surprised and thankful for the amazing response we’ve been getting.
What can South African audiences expect from your film?
It’s a magical and inspiring story that will take you on a journey through the misty forests of Magoebaskloof and help you to relive the beauty and innocence of your childhood. It’s also a movie about the limiting stories we tell ourselves and it will help you to face all those fears that keep you from achieving great things.
Many have compared Meerkat Maantuig to the likes of Moonrise Kingdom and The Secret Garden. Did these films serve as inspiration for Meerkat Maantuig, or did you find inspiration elsewhere?
Those are some of my favourite movies, so I’m sure on some level they did inspire the film. I love whimsy and magical realism and I wanted to create something beautiful and uplifting, but also a bit spooky, mysterious and strange. I loved packing details into the film, things that I did growing up. I wasn’t inspired by one specific film but I knew from the start I wanted to create a dark fairytale that will leave you thinking about the film long after it’s done.
You wrote and directed Meerkat Maantuig. Do you enjoy the writing or directing aspect of film making more?
I’m a bit of an introvert and I love hanging at home with my dogs, so the writing process comes more naturally. But it’s such a privilege to get to set and work with a group of incredibly talented people who inspired me on a daily basis. Each cast and crew member brought something special to the project and shooting the film in the Magoebaskloof forests was a huge adventure.
As a female screen-writer and director, what are your views on the lack of female directors nominated at the Oscars?
I think the more we draw attention to the issue the more it will improve. The Me Too campaign has shown us that if we make our voices heard and shine a light on an issue great things can be achieved.
What can we, as South Africans, in the film industry do to increase female representation in the industry?
I think it’s our responsibility to help, mentor and uplift wherever we can. I had a female first assistant director, a female on-set editor, a female composer and a female sound designer. It was important to me to work with females, not just because they’re female, but because I knew that their sensitivity, intuition and worldview would inform the project.
What other projects can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
I’m busy writing my next screenplay called Die Gedig ( The Poem) and I’m about to finish a crappy first draft. Writing doesn’t seem to get any easier.