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The story of Ellen Pakkies that gripped South Africans from all walks of life will now do the same to international audiences. Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies Story will be the film to open the seventh Toronto Black Film Festival on Wednesday February 13 at 8pm.
Pakkies strangled her drug-addicted son to death after suffering years of abuse at his hands. She was sentenced to three years of community service as a result, which inspired her to dedicate her life to becoming a community leader and fight against the plague of readily-available drugs that is so prevalent in the Cape Flats community.
The director of the film, Daryne Joshua, met her when she reached this critical juncture in her life. Joshua was moved by her warmth during their initial meeting, and spent two hours talking to her about her harrowing experience, and what she went through during that time. “While speaking to her I just thought to myself that this is a genuine mother,” he says.
Pakkies was played by Jill Levenberg, who is best known for her role in the popular local television series Suidooster, and was cast because she understood the mindset of someone from the Cape Flats community.
“You want to know that the actor is acting in an authentic way that someone can relate to,” Joshua says. The film had previously received international acclaim at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in the Netherlands, and also scooped up awards at last year’s kykNet Silwerskerm Festival.