SA film scores cheers and tears at US film festival
‘Beyond The River’ wows Californian viewers
Beyond the River, the 2017 South African film which touched the hearts of South African audiences, closed to cheers and tears at its screening at the Sonoma Film Festival in California last week.The film, loosely based on the true story of the sporting partnership between Piers Cruickshanks and Siseko Ntondini, was recently nominated for four SA Film and Television Awards (and won one for cinematography).
A South African contingent, led by executive producer Brad Fisher and including Ntondini, Cruickshanks and Ntondini’s current racing partner, Sbonelo Khwela, made the journey to California to spread awareness of the film and the social consciousness around it. Ntondini and Khwela, both part of the ADreach/Eurosteel racing team, recently finished third in the Dusi Marathon – the 120km epic canoe race between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.
The original duo (Cruickshanks and Ntondini) were invited to address the Los Angeles World Affairs Council – an influential and connected audience – on their involvement in the film and its significance in the South African context.“It was fascinating to see US audiences – particularly the LA World Affairs Council members – hanging on every word when we spoke about race issues,” said Cruickshanks.
“There was a sense that we in SA are so much further down the line in that sphere and that they can learn from us – when we actually know that we, ourselves, have so far to go and so much to learn.
“It was an incredible experience which I will never forget – especially filling a cinema in Santa Monica to watch our all-South African produced film. To receive standing ovations so far from home is testament to the fact that the film is not about a sport but rather about the coming together of different cultures to achieve a common goal. It’s about moving out of your comfort zone to learn about where someone else comes from – issues that have universal relevance and are poignant all over the world today.”The film, produced by South African NGO Heartlines, tells the story of the experienced and gritty but partly broken Steve (played by Grant Swanby) and the lionhearted, rookie-come-upstart from the squatter camp, Duma Madlala (played by Lemogang Tsipa), and the confluence of their journeys to self-realisation.
The film’s success comes on the back of a 15-year partnership and social development project led by outdoor media company ADreach. Ntondini, 23, a long-time beneficiary of the project, says: “Our club is not just about sport, it’s about the lessons one learns through sport and how to apply it to our education and chosen careers.”The Sonoma Film Festival, now in its 21st year, has established its niche in the US film festival market by screening 90 hand-selected films including independent features, documentaries, world cinema and short films. The festival creates an opportunity for the film to gain some international traction, and, more importantly, to share a triumphant good-news South African story in the context of world media currently beset with gloom.