Daniel Dercksen shares a few thoughts with storyteller and storymaker Regardt van den Bergh, whose inspirational Uitvlucht was screened in competition at the Indie Karoo Film Festival.
Following a great run at cinemas, Uitvlucht is deservedly in competition at the Indie Karoo Film Festival. How do you feel about this?
I saw the other films in competition and that made me so proud to think we are nominated for best film with two other films. It’s great!
Festivals like the Indie Karoo Film Festival is an important showcase for emerging filmmakers, your views on this?
Film festivals are important because of the eclectic array that one can view. It exposes young film makers to other ways of making films and other ways of thinking about film. It also allows one to meet with other film makers and producers and creates an opportunity to share views and experiences. I think this cross pollination is vitally important, it broadens ones horizons.
How will you describe Uitvlucht in your own words?
It’s an unsquirming look at our own fallibilities and how a relentless love draws us out a pit of despair and guilt. It’s a story of second chances and the grace of God told with love and humour.
What inspired Uitvlucht?
This is a semi-autobiographical story, so, much of the inspiration came from true events. I think the most telling was falling in love as a middle aged person and of course the wonderful landscape of the Eastern Cape.
You wrote the screenplay with your wife, Clara Joubert van den Bergh. Tell me about the process of teaming up with your wife as a writer and then directing her in the film?
Both Clara and I had the same end in mind, telling a story that would inspire and liberate people who are carrying heavy burdens of the past, like feelings of guilt and unforgiveness and the fear to commit again to an intimate relationship. We communicated from the same page and this helped the work process. We really had a great time writing and making the film. It was hard work but very rewarding. What Clara brought to the writing process was the very believable dialogue, especially the kids. That helped me a lot. Breaking the story into a workable paradigm was my job. What made it easy and difficult was that we were telling our story!!
Directing her was easy because it was our passion. She brought a depth to the character that cannot be directed. All I needed to do was make her performance harmonise with the rest of the “orchestration”. For both of us this was very fulfilling.
Was it an easy story to write?
As I said, it was easy and difficult. The beauty of our love story and the romance was relatively easy to tell, but to tell of the hurtful things wasn’t. It was quite a thing to decide where to draw the line; what of all the drama, do we tell and what not, and also important, how to keep to the integrity of the truth. What was an issue was making yourself vulnerable to an audience. When people know that they are looking at a true story, something that really happened, they watch with much more empathy, I believe. So it was important to not dramatise gratuitously. We wanted to bear our heart and soul, otherwise, what’s the use, then it’s just another story we can suck out of our thumbs.
In essence it tells two stories that poignantly shows how impossible a happy future is without struggles of the past.
That essentially, was the motivation, the struggles of the past can become a valuable asset! There is a grace in giving yourself to an intimate relationship again after the “violence” of divorce. I think the second time around you consider more in depth the sincerity of your commitment. You know what its’ about. All story tellers want to get to that depth, the essences of human nature.
It reminds strongly of Faith like Potatoes, dealing with faith that heals broken lives.
I agree, although here we have love as the healer, unconditional, unrelenting, love. As in Faith Like Potatoes, the “lover” is God Himself and a realisation of this frees us from our bondage or entrapment. In Uitvlucht, Dok loves Anna the way he believes God loves him and this unrelenting love eventually has Anna shaking off the past and sets her free.
As a storyteller and story maker you create stories from the inside out, thereby sharing personal films you are intimately related you?
There is no better story to tell than a story that really happened. No one can refute such a story and more often than not, truth is stranger than fiction. It is those stories that I look for, ones that grab you in the depth of your heart and cause you to look at life with a new perspective. I don’t think one can tell stories you don’t really relate to, even if you’re Tim Burton and you’re telling the most unbelievable fable, through it all, the story must resonate inside you.
What inspires you as a filmmaker?
Peoples stories … and other film makers. I love watching films, other peoples stories. Igmar Berman, Abbas Kiorostami, Madjid Madjidi, Zhang Yimou, Theo Angelopoulos, Nikita Mikhalkov and hundreds more.
What excites you about the film medium?
It is a privilege to have a 100 minutes of someone’s time and it excites me to think that I can transport that person into another reality for a 100 minutes and make him look at life in a different way once he or she walks out. It also excites me to be able to show people not all movies are rom coms and that films can be an unforgettable experience, like reading one of the classic novels.
It was interesting watching you as a young boy delivering such great performances in films by Jans Rautenbach during the late 60s. How much did Rautenbach influence your choices and style as a filmmaker?
Working with Jans isn’t a job it’s an experience. It was such a privilege to have worked with him so early in my life. All that experience etched itself into my psyche for ever. Jans’s take on life is indelibly part of my film making. His ability to delve into the depths of characters and discover some inscrutable nuance of interpretation, was and still is, fascinating to me. I remember how he stood in front of me when I was 15 years old in Die Kandidaat and told me a story with such passion that we both stood in tears … then he said “kom ons skiet die ding, Vincy, hy’s (me) reg!” My love for World Cinema type films comes from Jans.
How much has the film industry changed since then?
In the 60’s and 70’s the film industry was a small family, the family is bigger now. Technology has changed the way we make films, but the stories remain the same. With all the genres and styles of film making and all the bells and whistles one can employ nowadays, nothing is impossible, BUT, the story is still the most important.
It is equally important for directors to have some grounding in acting?
I think it depends on what type of films you make. Telling true stories, these heartfelt ones, I think it’s a major benefit for a director to have had some acting experience. I had a director once say to me, “I want you to start here and do a little something and then move there and do a little something there” I think he would have done well to at least attent an acting class as an observer.
What do you think makes a great story?
I wish I knew! Who can say? What makes To Kill A Mocking Bird great? I read Crime and Punishment recently and was so taken by it, but it’s just a story about a guy who commits a murder, tries to excuse his deed, eventually feels guilty and has remorse. So …. I think a great story is any story, but it’s the way it’s told that makes the difference.
Any advice and some tips for aspiring screenwriters?
Best advice I can give is watch good films…and WRITE!
Who is the man behind the filmmaker? What do you do when you are not making films?
I’m a family man, though the kids are out the house, Clara and I read, cook and watch Scandinavian TV dramas. I’m a keen wildlife observer and love the game reserve. Lastly I’m an avid philatelist. I collect Union of South Africa with particular interest in errors and varieties and also interprovincials 1910-1913.
Tell me about your next projects?
Clara is writing a wonderful comedy called, Bon Voyage Ouma Koos, a South African story that reaches across the borders to other African cultures. It’s an ubuntu story. I’m in development with two stories, Tertullus,which I’ve finished writing. It’s the story of a first century lawyer who is confronted with his own guilt and his struggle with law and grace. It plays in the time when the Sanhedrin considered abolishing stoning as a way of punishment. They do, 20 years later. The other story is based on real events, A Life Lived, deals with a woman who is illegally certified and institutionalized. She fights to prove her sanity and win custody of her son again. This is a heart rending story of the endurance of the human spirit.
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