Craig Gardner’s hard-hitting debut feature film, My Father’s War, has conquered the hearts of viewers right from the start. The award winning actor, writer, producer and film maker is renowned for his involvement with hits like Suburban Bliss, Joburg Blues, Madam and Eve and various programmes on Nat Geo, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, etc.) This movie will soon be released on DStv BoxOffice and DVD and is a welcome addition to any South African movie enthusiast’s film collection.
This unique, bilingual (Afrikaans/English) drama focuses on the broken relationship between a father and his rebellious teenage son. The story is set in 2003, with the 19-year old Dap Smit (Edwin van der Walt) constantly fighting with his Border War veteran father, Dawid (Stian Bam). There is seemingly no chance of reconciliation between them. To make matters even worse, Dawid’s wife, Carina (Erica Wessels), is stuck in the middle of their epic struggle. Dap then suddenly has a series of dreams where he is a combat soldier during the Border War in the 1980’s. There he meets his father (at the same age) and experiences first-hand what soldiers of that time – in other words his own father - had to go through. These dreams irrevocably change Dap’s perception, his heart and life… with far-reaching consequences for him and his father.
While preparing for his role, Stian Bam asked a former soldier family member for his impressions: “I asked: ‘What can you give me? I don’t want to know what you did. What is important to me is the relationship you had with your family, with your wife. Why did you decide to talk or not talk?’ And, he couldn’t answer that. He did eventually say that he did not speak to his wife about it. She knew certain things, but she also accepted that is what it was. But now, he’s talking to his son, which is wonderful, because that’s his healing.”
Edwin van der Walt says that this film is very personal to him and that he himself learnt a lot about love, relationships and the truth. “It forms part of a season in my life and to work with my mentor, Stian Bam, was and always will be a highlight in my life. It was a very trying process, but also incredibly enriching, and we all gave 120%!” About his hopes and expectancies for the film, Edwin says: “I hope and believe that the film can be a step in the right direction for people to mend their broken relationships. Before a wound can heal it must first be raw. I hope that everyone learns more about the Border War and the effects it had on our grandfathers, brothers and fathers. I hope that my own father, who was also a part of this war, will feel like a HERO when he watches the film.”
Other actors starring in the film include Fumani Shilubana, Neels Clasen, Hannes Muller, Meren Reddy, Jai’prakesh Shewram, David Rees and the up-and-coming child actor, Vian Singleton.
According to the producer, Peter Lamberti, and writer/director Craig Gardner, the theme of combining a broken relationship with the Border War was the biggest challenge of the film – in other words, to overcome the gap between a father and his son because of a war that happened 30 years ago. And to this challenge, Gardner created the important dream scenes. He says: “With Peter’s invaluable input, every dream was created to advance the unfolding story. Thus there aren’t any unnecessary fighting scenes. The war dreams are rather microcosms of the real events that join fiction to promote either the characters or the story line – like mini stories inside of a bigger picture.”
He adds: “The war was used as a creative tool to reveal the outcome of the story. We have, by choice, not delivered a moral stand against the conflict itself. This isn’t a Border War film – it is a drama about relationships (that is the core of every successful film). And My Father’s War focuses on this broken relationship between father and son. We are hoping to reach as wide an audience as possible, but we also want every person affected by war - soldiers, women, men, children and parents to see it. It will hopefully be a cathartic experience that will awaken old memories, drive away ghosts and provide viewers with a better understanding – even to those who had no relation to the war.”
Bioskoop’s Anna-Marie Jansen van Vuuren says: “The scenes set during the Border War were recreated as realistically as possible - and cinematographer Tom Marais’ camera work and Chantel Carter’s art direction are on the same level as war movies such as Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbor. The special effects are definitely on international standard and at one stage I found myself imagining that I was under water with a crocodile lurking behind me.”
Although My Father’s War contains Hollywood standard war scenes, which not only satisfies the toughest of critics, but also keeps viewers at the edge of their seats, it is so much more than just another action movie. It is a moving tale about conflict, pain, ghosts from the past and disappointments, but it’s also about forgiveness, faith, healing and love, that will touch everyone deeply who watches it, because it shows how the truth can truly set you free if you allow yourself to really see it.
The critically acclaimed film is now available at video shops and can be rented on DStv BoxOffice. It will be for sale at selected stores from November 25, 2016.