A pawpaw has never been this delicious!
Family. You want to live without them, but can’t survive without them. That’s the essence of Koos Roets‘ quirky satire ‘n Paw Paw Vir My Darling, which takes us on a humorous and heartfelt journey into the hearts and souls of a needy Afrikaner family living in the fictional Damnville in 2003.
Based on an idea which Roets skilfully adapted from Jeanne Goosen bestseller that offered an intelligent and her sharp observation and understanding of the pshyce of characters and their reactions to the social, cultural and political mileu in which they find themselves, the film adaptation aptly celebrates the core of Goosen’s work.
Although at heart it’s a brilliant social satire in the tradition of Siener in die Suburbs and Triomf, it’s equally a women’s film that acutely addresses issues of woman finding their worth in work and home, but also a human drama about a family that tries to unite dramatically and comically, and also addresses serious issues like cancer with dark overtones.
The soul of the film belongs to a pavement special mongrel Tsjaka (voiced by Tobie Cronje), who is the narrator of the story and observes the Beeslaer family from his point of view, delivering his own unique social commentary and sharing his cunning canine opinion with other dogs in the neighbourhood.
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.
At first it seems odd to have this mongrel as the ‘hero’ of the story, but once you grasp the wonderful contrast and dynamics that Roets creates between the two disparate worlds, it’s an entertaining and amusing journey that is engaging and delivers what it promises.
The story revolves around the Beeslaer family who lives at 24 Frik du Preez Street in Damnville, where Vleis (Deon Lotz) and Soufie (Deirdre Wolhuter) Beeslaer and their children Elvis (Hannes Brümmer), Rusty (Martelize Kolver) and Mabel (Jana Nortier) try to live a normal life.
The Beeslaers are representative of white Afrikaners who experienced an existential 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.
But life is no picnic for the Beeslaers, not with Sally Caravan (Lida Botha), Soufie’s tough-as-nails grandmother living in her caravan in the Beeslaers’ backyard and raises hell whenever she gets a chance.
Or when Vleis’mother Girla (Marga van Rooy) gate crashes their peaceful existence with her latest boyfriends, at first the fast-talking ‘swank’ Tango du Toit (Marcel van Heerden) – who is a ‘man of mystery’; and later the humourless Salty Sprinkelgras, portrayed by Jan Engelen.
Then there’s two gossipy neighbours who keep their eyes on the Beeslaers: Hannie van Oorkant (Sandra Prinsloo) and the eccentric Huibie Hozapfel (Hèléne Truter), and their next door neigbours
Basil (Willie Esterhuizen) and Gissie (Brümilda van Rensburg) Bonthuis causing havoc with their unruly children.
It’s unwise to take sides in this zany scenario. On the one hand you have the Beeslaers’ rowdy partying on their front and back porches with their friends Hillies Grobbelaar (Ester von Waltsleben) and Wouter Bungalow (André Odendaal); on the other hand, the Bonthuis’ twin daughters never stop messing about on an off-tune piano; combined with the smelly chicken coop on the border of his property.
And then there’s the outsiders that intrude hysterically on the narrative: their gardener Cyril Phosa (Fezile Mpela), police officer Sergeant Kennedy Banda (Dambuza Nqumashe); their son Elvis’ Indian girlfriend Minah Naidoo (Roshila Jarosz) , their gay daughter Rusty’s girlfriend, Thalita (Hanli Rolfes), and the suave prince charming Giepie Briel (Kaz McFadden) who bedazzles Mabel.
Shakespeare would have had a field day with this assortment of characters.
Its characters we can relate to and easily understand; we see ourselves in them and through their meanderings and comedy of errors we take a closer look at our own people.
It’s a crazy circus that showcases the best acting talent South Africa has to offer, it would be unfair to single out any one of the cast, for all actors do complete justice to their colourful characters.
The film makes one realise what exceptional talent South Africa has to offer, and with writer-directors like Koos Roets, and storytellers like Jeanne Goosen, we really have the best of both worlds, with the extra bonus of superb technical teams and creative artists creating proudly South African films.
Visually, the film works well and gives us a great sense of the world of the characters, taking us into familiar spaces.
‘n Pawpaw vir My Darling is a film you can escape into without ever get lost, and then discovering at the end of the viewing that South African films offer just as much as any other film internationally, if not more.