‘n Pawpaw Vir My Darling

A charming tale of humour, pathos and clever social commentary on the life of a family who lives in Damnville.

’n Pawpaw vir my Darling is a tale of humour, pathos and clever social commentary on the life of a family who lives in Damnville.

Pawpaw poaster

Sandra Prinsloo, Willie Esterhuizen, Deon Lotz, Brumilda van Rensburg, Jana Nortier, Deirdre Wolhuter and Lida Botha

Through the eyes of their dog, the pavement special Tsjaka, we see the struggle of the individual family members to adapt to their circumstances and to maintain peace within themselves and among one another, their neighbours and the authorities.

The viewer experiences their desperate and sometimes clumsy attempts at surviving in the post-1994 era – and gets an intimate look at characters and situations.

He or she joins in the sweet and sour, the brief moments of hope, excitement and pleasure, but also the desperation and hopelessness of a bleak existence in a socially and economically challenged environment… and the eventual, resigned acceptance of a life without trimmings.

The Story behind the story

Matthys Jakobus Roets (Koos) was born in South Africa in 1943, and started his career in 1962 as an assistant cameraman, working on Lord Oom Piet for Jamie Uys (The Gods Must Be Crazy). After assisting on a variety of documentaries and feature films, Koos graduated as a camera operator and worked on international features at SA Film Studios. During this time, SA Film Studios was closely involved with the British film industry and Koos had the opportunity to work and train under top British cameramen, among others Irwin Hillier, Denys Coop and Ray Sturgess. He is therefore completely comfortable with the British way of working and has an intimate knowledge of the protocol and etiquette of life on an international set. In 1969, he photographed his first feature, the highly acclaimed Die Geheim van Nantes. After photographing more than a dozen features in a short span of time, winning high critical praise from the media, he graduated as a director for both television and the big screen. His love for the camera ensured that he regularly did camera work, and kept up to date with the latest technology. At one stage, he spent three months at Pinewood Studios in the United Kingdom, learning the intricacies of dealing with stereo, Dolby soundtracks. As a director and Director Of Photography, he regularly works in Super 16, 35 (Arriflex, Moviecam and Panavision) and in the digital format. Koos has the ability to adapt from the glossy, action-packed American style to the moody, slow-moving European style (which he prefers). His expertise can also be applied to commercial and corporate productions. The feature film Brutal Glory is a good example of his action sequences, while Manakwalanners, Koöperasiestories and Faan Se Trein are examples of the opposite. As a Director of Photography, he has won numerous awards, including the Kodak Spectrum, Rapport Artes, Star Tonight, SA Academy for Arts & Sciences, Artes, M-Net Vita, ATKV. He was also honoured with the SASC award for a Lifetime of Excellence in the South African Film Industry. He co-wrote and directed the critically acclaimed and financially successful feature film Faan se Trein, winning Best Director, Best Script, and Best Film at the 2013 kykNET Silwerskerm Festival. His most recent film as cinematographer was Jans Rautenbach’s Abraham. He lives in a small Victorian house in Klaarstroom near Meiringspoort in the Karoo where he finds the tranquil space to write, to be with his dogs and with the love of his life …

Director Koos Roets had already become acquainted with the novel of the same name by Jeanne Goosen in 2010. As a fan of her work, he was once again overwhelmed by her intelligence, and her sharp observation and understanding of the psyche of her characters and their reactions to the social, cultural and political milieu in which they find themselves.

The political confusion of a certain group of Afrikaners post-1994, was of particular relevance. Koos was also amused with their sometimes clumsy and hysterical struggle to find their feet.

It was once again the humour and pathos in one package that spoke to Koos – the no-frills content, stripped of pretentiousness, and the lack of social and political filters of characters and situations which fascinated him.

Koos, with his love for dogs, was immediately interested in the novel. The fact that Jeanne used such an interesting angle to tell they story of a family and their neighbours in Damnville, finally convinced him to write the text.

We get to know the characters through the eyes and commentary of the Beeslaers always famished pavement special, Tsjaka, who has to listen to the dysfunctional Beeslaers’ boring stories and has to witness their family dramas.

The sad love story between Tsjaka and a ‘newcomer’ poodle from Waterkloof is also entwined in the text.

Koos also thought it appropraite to dedicate the film to Jeanne’s late dog, Dolores.

Regarding the casting of the dogs, Koos adapted the text to accommodate the nervous nature of the rescue dog, Zeus. Adjustments were also made during the filming of the scenes with Zeus, as scurrying people, lights, and a rolling camera on a dolly and track didn’t exactly fit into his idea of a fun day out on a film set!

With a lot of patience and collaboration, the battle was finally won and Zeus eventually knew how to react to being in the spotlight… and consumed all his reward snacks with great gusto.

Thanks to carefully considered directing, it was Tsjaka, with his wonderful expresseive eyes, who eventually emerged as the winner at the end of the day.

Koos, when casting the humans, had a lot of respect for ‘glamourous actresses’ such as Brümilda van Rensburg, Sandra Prinsloo and Deirdre Wolhuter who were prepared to appear on screen in less flattering guises – and still deliver outstanding performances.

The metamorphosis of the character Soufie, who eventually loses all her hair, is testament to Deirdre Wolhuter’s professionalism. This challenge to transform an actress with a full head of hair into a convincing bald-headed character was achieved by the talents of a team of special makeup artists.

While writing the script, Koos had already visualised Marcel van Heerden as Tango du Toit, with his bald head and big moustache – and due to the capable hands of the makeup team, Marcel could flamboyantly display his perfectly styled ‘Royal Airforce’ moustache!

The story and characters

n Pawpaw vir my Darling is a glimpse into the life of the Beeslaer family who lives at 24 Frik du Preez Street in Damnville. Set in 2003, their experiences are observed and conveyed via their dog Tsjaka, a pavement special, who is the main character in the story.

Other central characters are Vleis (Deon Lotz) and Soufie (Deirdre Wolhuter) Beeslaer and their children Elvis (Hannes Brümmer), Rusty (Martelize Kolver) and Mabel (Jana Nortier). Sally Caravan (Lida Botha) is Soufie’s tough-as-nails grandmother who lives in her caravan in the Beeslaers’ backyard.

Girla (Marga van Rooy) is Vleis’ mother. She lives in Huis Herfsblaar in Witbank and on two ocassions she arrives at the Beeslaers with different boyfriends.

One boyfriend is the fast-talking ‘swank’ Tango du Toit (Marcel van Heerden) – who is a ‘man of mystery’; and the other is the humourless Salty Sprinkelgras, portrayed by Jan Engelen.

The two gossipy neighbours are Hannie van Oorkant (Sandra Prinsloo) and the eccentric Huibie Hozapfel (Hèléne Truter).

Basil (Willie Esterhuizen) and Gissie (Brümilda van Rensburg) Bonthuis are the Beeslaers’ next-door neighbours. The relationship between the Beeslaers and Bonthuise is troubled. On the one hand, due to the Beeslaers’ rowdy partying on their front and back porches with their friends Hillies Grobbelaar (Ester von Waltsleben) and Wouter Bungalow (André Odendaal).

Vleis, on the other hand, experiences extreme pressure because of the Bonthuis’ twin daughters who never stop messing about on an off-tune piano; combined with the smelly chicken coop on the border of his property.

When the Bonthuis daughters tease the poor, bald Soufie, who has lost her hair due to stress, the situation reaches a climax. Vleis loses control, which culminates in a fight between him and Basil – and causes extreme chaos in Frik du Preez Street.

The Beeslaers are representative of white Afrikaners who experienced an existensial confusion post-1994 and who, despite their best intentions, often lose their way in their attempts to adjust to a new political system, and when addressing social issues.

This is represented in their relationship with their gardener Cyril Phosa; police officer Sergeant Kennedy Banda; and Minah Naidoo, their son Elvis’ Indian girlfriend.

Soufie, especially, has a hard time dealing with Cyril’s cheeky attitude; Elvis’ girlfriend; and their gay daughter Rusty’s girlfriend, Thalita.

Tsjaka, the main character, is the Beeslaers’ always ravenous and anxious dog – a dog with a free spirit who is imprisoned behind the closed gate of 24 Frik du Preez Street.

However, there is a glimmer of hope when he falls in love with Mignon, a lost poodle ‘girl’ from Waterkloof.

Other dog friends are Knoffel, the one who imagines greyhound blood runs through his veins; and Makkie, the plump ‘lady’ dog who also visits Tsjaka at the front gate.

n Pawpaw vir my Darling is a tale of survival in a bleak existence, a story comprising humour and pathos, love and loss, joy and sorrow, yearning, and hope… and the eventual acceptance of a life without trimmings.