Gqeberha schools’ film premieres at NAF
Bob Eveleigh: Collegiate Girls High School and Grey High School have collaborated on Veters van Ampersand, an original narrative film, which premieres at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda this week.
The film is also an entry in the 2022 Woodlands Dairy Showtime Awards.
Conceptualised and produced by the combined efforts of Jacques Batista, Jacques Cloete and Nicci Schoeman, this new horror film features an ensemble cast of learners from the two schools, led by Alice Erasmus in the titular role.
Following the success of Collegiate’s short film As If The Rain Watched Over Her, which won a Standard Bank Ovation Award at the 2021 National Arts Festival and the Best Film and Outstanding Achievement Awards in the 2021 Woodlands Dairy Showtime Awards, their new, innovative Dramatic Arts Department, under Jacques Batista, has teamed up with Grey High School where Nicci Schoeman has introduced Drama as a subject this year.
After the success of their first collaboration, filmmaker Jacques Cloete and Jacques Batista (nicknamed the Two Jacques’ or J2!) decided to return to the physical Festival in Makhanda with a new challenge in the form of an episodic length narrative film.
Extending curriculum work covering Film Studies which is a choice component for Grade Twelve examination at Collegiate, Batista roped in the expertise of Cloete again to create a film based on his concept of a horror genre film after discovering the Old Synagogue in Willowmore under new ownership and set for renovations.
Wanting to pay homage to classical tales like Racheltjie de Beer and Het van Verlangekraal and drawing inspiration from Xhosa traditionalism, Cloete suggested thatthe horror should be presented as the origin of a real South African folktale with a loss-of-innocence story at its centre and wrote it in multiple languages to create a fable that is shared across cultures.
Schoeman joined the creative team co-producing the film alongside Batista after being appointed at Grey High School.
Set in the fictional Karoo town of Ampersand in the early 1900’s, the narrative tells the story of a group of school children who decide to spend the night at an old abandoned synagogue that they frequent as a halfway rest stop between school and town.
Veters (Alice Erasmus) is invited by the charming Hannes (James Smith) to join the fun to make amends for the bullying she endures at the hands of most of her peers, including the insufferable Charlotte (Jessica Smith). The fun and games soon go from playful to sinister as the children are faced with a deadly force they suspect to be the demon Iskhova, the subject of a game they frequently play.
In the creative seat of writer, director and editor is Jacques Cloete with an original score by Richard Campbell whose music layers the film with thrilling suspense.
The film’s director of photography, David Stone, is a third-year film student at AFDA Gqeberha while Cloete holds an honours degree in Film and Visual Media at the University of the Free State and is currently completing his MFA with a focus on phonetics in South African cinema.
A versatile composer and musical director, Campbell has worked on several film projects such as Business As Usual, screened on Showmax, as well as Dark Moon at the Croatia Film and Music Festival, in addition to musical credits.
Batista, a graduate of the Rhodes Drama Department, is enrolled there again completing his MA with a focus on screen dance. In addition to producing Veters Van Ampersand, he is a versatile theatre-maker whose Physical Theatre production, The Edge of Her Earth was successful in the Woodlands Dairy Showtime Junior Awards at the National Arts Festival and the awards ceremonies in 2019.
Nicci Schoeman is a graduate of the Stellenbosch Drama Department where she graduated with Honors cum laude in Acting followed by work in television, theatre, and international adverts. As newly appointed Head of Drama at Grey, she is pioneering the subject with this collaboration.
Veters Van Ampersand can be seen at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda:
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Book at the Festival.