10 must-see Afrikaans short films to stream

29 June 2020

10 must-see Afrikaans short films to stream

Often experimental, filled with surprise, finely manicured and condensing the impact of a feature film into the duration of a sitcom, short films have a life of their own. Here are 10 must-see short films now streaming on Showmax.

Die Leeftyd van ‘n Orgidee

An elderly man is thrown by his wife’s passing in Die Leeftyd van ‘n Orgidee (The Lifetime of an Orchid). This beautifully composed short film and hefty drama tries to capture a widower’s mourning period. Struggling to come to terms with his loss, his loneliness is compounded by his attempt to keep each of his wife’s orchids alive.

Directed by Marí Borstlap, this is a heartrending, poetic and sentimental drama. Sparsely scripted, the visual storytelling is excellent, embracing universal themes and compelled by a soulful performance from Wilson Dunster. Trying to embody the qualities of an orchid, Die Leeftyd van ‘n Orgidee is a delicate, beautiful, haunting and fragile tale.

Vlees van my Vlees

Vlees van my Vlees (Flesh of my Flesh) tackles the unspoken drama of a couple struggling to overcome a fall out following a life-changing car accident. Taking place over the course of an anniversary celebration, we get a tender and nuanced portrait of a married couple.

Directed by Matthys Boshoff and starring James Alexander and Erica Wessels, it’s an honest, authentic and full-fledged romance drama. Sensitive direction and grounded co-lead performances compel this slice-of-life short film. Combining the newfound intimacy of a husband caring for his wheelchair-bound wife, Vlees van my Vlees is sentimental without bypassing the emotional and physical challenges.

Die Maan Val Bewusteloos

Taking on a similar feel to The Little Prince, Die Maan Val Bewusteloos (The Moon Falls Unconscious) is an artful fantasy drama from writer-director Nico Scheepers. Centring on an orphaned child living with her grandparents, her bedtime story becomes the hauntingly surreal mindscape for a drama about mortality and the power of story.

It’s the kind of haunting and magical short that could have been adapted from a stage play or ballet, translating mesmerising and graceful images to screen on the back of powerful themes and magical production design. Swathed in snow-kissed beauty, it’s reinforced by solid performances from Cobus Roussouw, Sandra Kotzé and Carla Smith.

Axis Mundi

Antoinette Louw and Deon Lotz are two of South Africa’s best contemporary actors, who have each amassed an impressive body of work. Having them play opposite one another is a moment and it happens in Axis Mundi. The drama turned thriller follows a paraplegic talk show host who invites a healer onto her show to do the unthinkable in order to boost ratings.

Seeing these actors in a versus dynamic is exhilarating even without the razor-sharp short film concept. Writer-director duo, Matthew Jankes and Sean Steinberg, ratchet up the tension leaning on their considerable talents who deliver on performance against a suitably retro talk show environment.

Versnel

Paramedics are on the frontline and rushing to the scene of an accident or crime to save lives involves risking their own. Versnel (Accelerate) immerses us in a pulsating medical crime thriller as two paramedics attend to a stab victim in a red zone. Loaded with the drama of being a first response call, the situation is amplified by a second wave of attack.

Directed by Dian Weys and starring Trix Vivier, Clayton Evertson and Brendon Daniels, this short film packs a gut punch with a haunting message. Deftly putting you inside the ambulance, Versnel has the immediacy and impact of found footage with performances to root you in its real-life horror.

Lakens

Lakens (Sheets) is a surreal and unsettling psychological horror mystery drama from writer-director Christian Grobbelaar. Using bed sheets to create a ghostly dimension and presence, similar to A Ghost Story, the short film leverages powerful imagery to slowly unlock Lika’s deepest, darkest regret.

Offering breadcrumbs of story and character, this visually-striking short is elegant, emotional and subtle. From its harrowing tone to its artful dreamweaving, Lakens is poetically composed and accomplished as flashbacks unveil difficult truths. A solid lead performance from Christine van Hess, good pacing and challenging subject matter give this nuanced nightmare a sense of grandeur.

Langsaan

Short films need to accomplish much with little. Langsaan (Next Door) tells the story of a girl living in a fantasy world interrupted next door. The most impressive thing about Langsaan is just how authentic it feels… meticulous in its mise-en-scene detail from the age. It’s transportative, allowing you to peer into a nostalgic flashback, which while familiar becomes incredibly unsettling.

Dealing with abuse, this powerful message movie leverages imagination from a child’s perspective with devastating consequences. It’s a challenging and haunting short film, directed by Harold Holscher and starring innocence personified in Annerie Havenga with a short-lived yet brave and masterful turn from Marcel van Heerden.

Soldaat

South Africa is known for its gangland dramas and Soldaat (Soldier) plays into this gritty world. Telling the story of two youths who unwittingly land themselves in a local gangster’s pocket, it’s a story of revenge and innocence lost. Starting with their teen misadventures as make-believe soldiers, their gung-ho neighbourhood rambling is cut short.

Clever editing, on-location shooting, sharp performances and immersive storytelling manage to distil a feature film’s content into the space of a short film. Keeping things real, Soldaat taps into universal themes through crime-riddled neighbourhoods and corrupt police officials. Suspenseful, thoughtful and homegrown, it’s a powerful tale of street justice.

Die Begrafnis

Small town dramas allow filmmakers to build a microcosm of culture, food, language, society and values for their characters to exist in. The sentimental and lovingly shot, Die Begrafnis (The Funeral), focusses on one such community, centring on a mother and daughter’s relationship against the backdrop of a funeral.

Directed by Johannes Nel and starring Laetitia Solomons, Lee-Ann van Rooi and Ann Juries, this salt-of-the-earth ensemble drama invites you into the rich heritage and traditions of a humble yet bubbly place where people need people. It’s a touching melodrama, exploring the wisdom of matriarchal figures in a tight-knit community through a day-in-the-life as colourful outfits pierce the dusty horizon.

Cowboy Dan

This outlandish comedy adventure western tells the story of a car guard who believes he’s a cowboy. Tending to the cattle (cars), one of them is stolen by rustlers (car thieves) when a barmaid at the saloon catches his eye. Together with his trusty sidekick and stallion (a scooter), the two pay a visit to known bandits to recover the luxury vehicle.

Switching between reality and western fantasy, this camp, cheeky and delightful comedy adventure caper could be adapted into a full-length feature. Brendon Daniels breathes life into Cowboy Dan and writer-director Wynand Louw finds the right balance of tongue and cheek. It may not be the next Napoleon Dynamite, but Cowboy Dan sure knows how to have fun!

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