Krotoa – A Powerful South African Film

An attack on your culture, is an attack on your identity.

”Identity, a sense of belonging and reconciliation are strong, universal themes in this powerful tale,” says producer-director Roberta Durant of Krotoa,  the poignant story of a feisty, bright, young eleven-year old girl, who is removed from her close-knit Khoi tribe to serve Jan van Riebeeck  at her uncle’s trading partner.

Krotoa is brought into the first Fort, established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652. There she grows into a visionary young woman, who assimilates the Dutch language and culture so well that she rises to become an influential interpreter for van Riebeeck (Armand Aucamp ), who became the first Governor of the Cape Colony. Krotoa (Crystal Donna Roberts – ) ends up being rejected by her own Khoi people and destroyed by the Dutch, when she tries to find the middle way between the two cultures.

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The history of South Africa, in the 17th century, is strongly intertwined with a Dutch history that deserves more attention. The Dutch’s wealth and strength, during its VOC period, is one-sided. The way in which the Dutch lived their lives in a colony, far from their homeland, and the complexity that this brought along on a social and political level, is under-exposed. The strong characters in this film each have an interesting and refreshing point of view on colonisation, therefore the story is not only rich in diversity, but also provides a unique perspective on a shared South African and Dutch history

The film, written by Kaye Ann Williams and Margaret Goldsmid, was created by a dynamic team of women, with acclaimed filmmaker Roberta Durrant as director and producer.

Roberta is the creator of various award-winning South African television series, including Ring of Lies, Home Affairs (nominated for two International Emmy Awards and as Best Drama at the Banff Film Festival), Montana, Izingane Zobaba, Sokhulu and Partners (nominated for an International Emmy Award and as Best Drama at the Africa Magic Awards), Shreds and Dreams, Saints and Sinners, Zbondiwe, Isikizi and Forced Love; as well as sitcoms like Sgudi Snaysi, Going Up, Madam and  Eve (won a Rose Award for Best comedy  at the Golden Rose Awards in Lucerne), SOS, Fishy Feshuns, Going Up Again, Mazinyo dot Q, and Stokvel. She is also responsible for the children’s film, Felix, which won seventeen international film awards, while other productions like Inside Out, Skilpoppe and Ingoma were also very well received. Ingoma won six SAFTA Awards in 2016.   She is also the producer of the new kykNET drama, Sara se Geheim.

The film conquered the hearts of international film lovers and critics, crowned with more than 8 International Awards, including Best Film at the Harlem International Film Festival held in New York.

This film, has already received six official selections at international film festivals, like the International Film Festival for Environment, Health, and Culture, World Film Awards, Artemis Women in Action Film Festival and the Nashville Film Festival. It has also won eight sought-after awards, including Best Film at the Harlem International Film Festival http://harlemfilmfestival.org/ an Award of Excellence at the International Film Festival for Women, Social Issues, and Zero Discrimination, a Best of Show Award at the Depth Of Field International Film Festival, a Platinum Award at the International Movie Awards, a Diamond Award at the Filmmakers World Festival, a Best of Show Award at the The IndieFEST Film Awards, an Award of Excellence Special Mention: Women Filmmakers at the Accolade Global Film Competition and a World Platinum Award at the World Woman Awards.

Director’s Statement

”The identity of someone, who is in between two cultures, is very relevant in any multicultural society. More specifically, discrimination between conflicting cultures and the (both strong and weak) position of a woman standing in between these cultures, are the two main threads of this story.”

In comparison to men, very few women have been acknowledged for having an impact on South African history. During the struggle, women like Ruth First, Lillian Ngoyi, Bettie du Toit and Sophia Williams-du Bruyn stood their ground in the fight against the apartheid government.

However, if we dig into South Africa’s rich history, we discover that there were other indigenous females – who contributed to the change and development of our great nation – even before the sisters who were involved in the struggle. One of these women, is the focus of this feature film. A tragic heroine – Krotoa: Eva of the Cape.

As the only recorded female interpreter of her time, she became the bridge between the Khoi people and the Dutch Settlers. She aided Jan van Riebeeck in his dealings with the natives and was instrumental in negotiating the end of the first Dutch-Khoi war. Her marriage to Danish surgeon and explorer, Pieter van Meerhof, is the first recorded inter-racial marriage between an indigenous woman and a European man. She was the first recorded indigenous woman to be baptised into the Christian religion of the colonialists. Pieternella, her daughter, birthed many Afrikaner, mixed-race and even black families, establishing Krotoa as a tangible bridge between all cultures in our country.

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It is not only important to tell her story because of all these great achievements, but it is also necessary to highlight that she was caught between two ways of life and constantly forced to choose between these two cultures. The tension and mistrust created between Krotoa and her people, because of her skill as interpreter that was frequently used by Jan van Riebeeck and the VOC (The Dutch East India Company), led to the tragic end of this influential woman, but also to the great beginning of a nation. The footprint she left on South African society, although forgotten or unknown by some, still has an impact on all of us today.

The film is inspired by real-life historical events. The filmmaker tried to stay true to facts and deductions made about her life by various historians, while taking dramatic license.

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The contrast between the Dutch and the Khoi is, in keeping with our theme of Krotoa being caught between two worlds, created by the key-characters in her life: Her childhood sweetheart – Doman, her benefactor – Van Riebeeck and her lover / husband – Pieter van Meerhof.

Beginning-period – 1652:

Here Krotoa is a girl of eleven years old, and the visuals depict her innocence and freedom, living her life as a Khoi girl within her tribe. This contrasts with the Dutch fort environment, with its rigidity and strangeness, which she is thrust into as a young servant girl within the Dutch community.

Krotoa 1Period – 1659:

During this period, we see Krotoa blossoming into a young woman through the eyes of Van Riebeeck, who is attracted to her (not only sexually). This is contrasted in the same period when Krotoa loses control over her situation. For example: When she is imprisoned by Maria, coveted by Van Riebeeck and when she returns to her Khoi village in a state of shock, having been violated.

Period – 1662:

Here Krotoa is settled with Van Meerhof. The period before Van Riebeeck leaves and Wagenaar takes over as Governor, is one of reasonable balance, with Krotoa comfortable with her status as Van Meerhof’s partner and Van Riebeeck’s interpreter and negotiator. Once Van Riebeeck leaves and Wagenaar takes over, she is forced into baptism and marriage, and sent off to Robben Island when Van Meerhof – her husband – is put in charge of the penal colony there.

Period – 1665:

Krotoa’s life spirals out of control on Robben Island. In one moment of clarity, she dons her skins and tells the Dutch gathering at the fateful dinner the truth about her experience with the Dutch.

Period – 1672:

Krotoa is imprisoned on Robben Island in 1672.

Period – 1674:

Krotoa dies in prison, on Robben Island, in 1674.