A woman is raped every 26 seconds in South Africa. That statistic doesn’t carry enough weight… even if you get Charlize Theron to follow it up with “Real Men Don’t Rape”. This isn’t surprising when you consider we’re living in a culture, where sexual harassment and coercion are viewed as normal male behaviour. In South Africa, the rate of sexual violence is among the highest in the world with roughly 500,000 rape cases taking place annually. It’s estimated that over 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime and only 1 in 9 rapes are reported.*
South Africa has some of the highest incidences of child and infant rape in the world. A survey among 1,500 school children in Johannesburg, revealed that a quarter of the boys thought that “jackrolling”, or gang rape, was fun. We’re credited with the invention of at least two controversial anti-rape devices and even our President has been charged with rape. Once dubbed “the rape capital of the world”, it seems as though little is being done to expose, prevent or address this widespread problem, an endemic many would believe is prolific enough for our government to declare a state of emergency.*
It seems beyond our control, like we’re helpless to a national emergency that seems too intimate to discuss and too big to solve. Thankfully, the medium of film is here to help and educate, which makes movies like Thina Sobabili and Dis ek, Anna so critical in shaping the national mindset and giving us insight into the affects of rape on its victims and the consequences of these actions on the perpetrators. Dis ek, Anna is a powerful and provocative drama that seeks to bring the issue to light by telling the personal story of Anna, a victim of domestic sexual abuse, against the backdrop of a country in crisis.
Sara Blecher’s film is beautifully composed, drawing comparisons with Scandanavian films like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy in terms of its tone, lead, filmic quality and the grisly circumstances she finds herself in. Blecher directed the bubbly yet thought-provoking and empowering Ayanda, another female-centric film on the other side of the spectrum, showing her range and determination to bring audiences entertainment that matters. She’s carefully balanced both films, driving a message without becoming too preachy, whilst nurturing her audience with compelling and vivid storytelling.
Dis ek, Anna’s message borders on propaganda in terms of vigilantism as we’re faced with one situation involving a family scandal and another dealing with a community. While you may not agree with this sentiment, it shows an underlying frustration with the justice system and lack of faith in criminal proceedings and due process. We’ve seen many high profile criminal court cases end unsatisfactorily and justice seems to be about as unpredictable as pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. Corruption and a lack of accountability have eroded the system… no wonder we’re fed up and want to take matters into our own hands. While drastic, it’s this edgy challenge that spurs on the characters and creates tension around the muddied morality.
Tertius Kapp’s screenplay is somewhat controversial, but it’s the kind of shake up that we need to provoke thought, stir up discussion and hopefully take action. It may be his first feature film credit as screenwriter, but the author has a knack for drama, having won the Herzog Prize for his dramas Rooiland and Oorsee earlier this year. His screenplay has emotional dexterity, keen insights and juggles a range of carefully drawn characters between the past and present as we focus on the foreground without losing sight of the jagged landscape.
The performances drive this film home with a seemingly limitless and solid ensemble of South African actors keeping the tug-o-war rope taut. Charlene Bruwer carries the pent-up heartache and fragility you’d expect from a younger Jodie Foster as Anna Bruwer, counterbalanced by a naive and heart-on-her-sleeve performance from Izel Bezuidenhout as a younger Anna. Marius Weyers is a boon, tenacious and spirited as Windhond Weber. Morne Visser’s quite monstrous as the shadowy Danie du Toit, delivering a brave and haunting career-defining performance. Nicola Hanekom is sublime as Johanna du Toit, carrying the unspoken violence and helplessness of a bystander too afraid to speak out. Eduan van Jaarsveldt’s sensitive performance as Hendrik Bruwer is also noteworthy and affecting.
The cinematography blends the worlds quite beautifully and effortlessly as we move from one age to another and maintain an intense, intimate and almost sinister tone, using off-camera moments quite masterfully. The soundtrack carries this agenda with some sharp subtextual audio interplay.
This emotional gravity echoes the same intensity of films from Danish director Susanne Bier, whose focus on character and a mounting tension around their circumstances permeates. Dis ek, Anna makes for compelling and gripping viewing… part heartfelt court room drama, part chilling, emotionally devastating crime thriller. There are some transitions that jar, one welcome scene intended for levity that seems a bit out of place and the fear of the story becoming unwieldy, but these minor flaws are a footnote to a much broader, impressive film at play.
Dis ek, Anna is an edgy, emotional, powerful, provocative and timely film… and the best South African drama since Life, Above All. Blecher commands a weighty, well-balanced and well-acted film that will disturb, emote and educate. It’s a beautifully composed, subtle and sensitive crime drama thriller that captures fragments of life and laces them together to create haunting, compelling and world-class entertainment with purpose… making it a finely-crafted and breathtaking must-see.
The bottom line: Immense
*Statistics sourced from this Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_violence_in_South_Africa
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