Kanarie – A heart-warming South African coming-of-age musical drama

Kanarie is a coming-of-age musical drama set in South Africa in 1985, about a young boy who discovers how through hardship, camaraderie, first love, and the liberating freedom of music, the true self can be discovered.

The film is directed by Christiaan Olwagen (Johhny Is Nie Dood Nie), from an original screenplay crafted by Olwagen and Musical Director Charl-Johan Lingenfelder.

The film has already scooped five awards before its release – including ‘Best Feature Film’ – at the kykNET Silwerskermfees in Cape Town in August, Kanarie was honoured with the Jury Award for ‘Best Narrative Feature’ at the 36th Reeling Film Festival in Chicago, late in September. Kanarie received critical acclaim at its screening at the 31st OUT on Film Festival in Atlanta, Georgia on 30 September and was honoured with the Jury Awards for ‘Best International Film’ and ‘Best Narrative Feature’ and as runners-up in for the Audience Award for Best International Film.The film was also part of the Official Selection at the 2018 OutFest in Los Angeles, as well as the Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival.

Kanarie (Afrikaans for Canary) is an Afrikaans-language film, with English sub-titles.

Interview with Musical Director Charl-Johan Lingenfelder.

When Johan Niemand (Schalk Bezuidenhout), gets called up for military service at the age of 18 in 1986 South Africa, he auditions and is accepted to the SADF Choir called the ‘Canaries’.

Against a landscape where law and religion oppress individuality, Johan and the Canaries have to survive military training and go on a nationwide tour of the country, travelling from town to town, entertaining people whilst also fortifying the belief in the military effort and promoting the cause of both Church and State.

On tour, Johan falls in love with a fellow choir mate and starts to question everything about himself and his world. He meets a myriad of characters; some proud of the choir efforts and others who awaken him to the realities and truth of Apartheid South Africa.


As Johan starts questioning his religion, patriotism, and sexuality, his emerging creativity and passion for music leads to direct conflict with his commanding officers.


The Creative Team

OlwagenBorn in Cape Town, South Africa. Christiaan Olwagen studied Drama at the University of Stellenbosch, specialising in Theatre Directing under the mentorship of Marthinus Basson. He is the recipient of the Fleur Du Cap Award for Most Promising Student, The Rosalie van der Gucht Award for Best New Director and the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Theatre.

Theatrical highlights include Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, Chekhov’s “The Seagull”, Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”, and Lorca’s “House of Bernarda Alba”.

Christiaan’s film debut was in 2013 at the Silwerskerm Festival in Cape Town, with the short film “Toevlug”. The short won Best Director, Screenplay and Best Short Film. His feature film debut was in 2016 with “Johnny is nie Dood nie“. It won Best Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Screenplay, Art Direction, Music, Best Director and Best Film at the Silwerskerm Festival. It has been described by South African critics as a landmark in Afrikaans cinema. Currently in post production are Christiaan’s second and third feature films. “Canary” – about a young gay army recruit who joins the South African Defence Force Army Choir at the height of apartheid. And then an Afrikaans adaptation of Chekhov’s “The Seagull” transposed to a contemporary South African setting.

CharlCharl-Johan Lingenfelder studied Musicology, Drama and Classical Culture at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. He is currently the Resident Musical Director for the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town. He has worked in Paris, San Francisco, New York, Hong Kong, Athens, New Zealand, China, Taiwan, and Indonesia as composer, musical director, arranger, conductor, writer and performer. He has collaborated with many theatre greats such as playwrights Eve Ensler and Athol Fugard, musicians Vanessa Mae, Sibongile Khumalo, Loyiso Bala and choreographers Gregory Maqoma and Veronica Paeper.

Charl-Johan has been nominated for 14 Naledi and 8 Fleur du Cap Awards. He was Musical Director for The Fugard Theatre productions of The Rocky Horror Show, West Side Story, Orpheus in Africa, and supervisor/performer on Cabaret. He was also sound designer for the Fugard Theatre productions of Clyborne Park, The Father and The Painted Rocks of Revolver Creek for which he received a Fleur du Cap nomination.

He won Best Soundtrack at the Silwerskerm Festival 2016 for the feature Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie. He is co-writer and composer of the feature film, Kanarie, which premiered at Outfest in Los Angeles in July and will premiere in South Africa in October. Charl-Johan was the Co-Musical director, and created additional music and arrangements, for the Fugard Theatre’s 2017 musical production of King Kong for which he won both the Fleur du Cap and Naledi Awards for his new compositions.