South Africans are flying the flag high at the 71st annual Cannes Films Festival. A number of South African films have been selected as part of the official programme. The Harvesters/Die Stropers premiered on Monday where it received a standing ovation after the screening.
Directed by Etienne Kallos the film tells the story of an isolated and conservative farming region in rural South Africa in the stronghold for Afrikaans white, minority culture, obsessed with strength and masculinity. In this world Janno exists – different, secretive and emotionally frail. His mother brings home Pieter, a hardened street orphan she wants to save. Janno is asked to make this stranger, his brother. The two boys begin a fight for power, heritage and parental love.
Variety praised the film saying, “Kallos’ literate, sharply calibrated script is brilliantly attentive to lexical contrast and code-switching, though it’s often in loaded silence that the characters reveal themselves most acutely.”
Born and raised in South Africa, Kallos left the country for the U.S. nearly two decades ago, returning over the course of a career that’s seen him produce two U.S.-lensed shorts that screened in Venice and Cannes. For his feature debut, Kallos saw a “chance through film to go back and understand where I come from.”
Screen Daily said: “This assured feature debut effectively hints at a churning savagery beneath the surface, which is every bit as unforgiving as the stark landscape”.
That landscape, in eastern Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, with its mesas, striking flat-topped mountains, was the starting point for Kallos.
“I set out to make a film about place,” he said. “We worked hard to somehow capture… a grandeur that the landscape is bigger than the people. I wanted to feel the landscape was more important than the characters or more powerful than the characters.”
The Harvesters is in competition in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival that runs to May 19.