5 reasons to love Arendsvlei, the Afrikaans telenovela with heart

5 November 2019

5 reasons to love Arendsvlei, the Afrikaans telenovela with heart

The ups and downs of the students, parents and teachers at Arendsvlei High School make for enthralling viewing. Set on the Cape Flats, this telenovela not only details the characters’ private affairs of the heart, but also puts their lives into context. It’s a riveting mix that’s won many fans. And now, the whole first season is waiting for you to binge watch.

Here are five reasons we think Arendsvlei is so good.

1. It’s a school drama with family at its heart

Arendsvlei is ultimately a family drama. The story follows the teenagers and grown-ups in the classrooms and hallways of the school, and the good (and bad!) moments in their lives after the last school bell rings. The story is told from the point of view of the Cupido family, who founded and now run the school and try to make a difference in the lives of the young people in their community.

2. It’s a year in the life

While it definitely has elements in common with a soap opera, Arendsvlei is a finite series, covering “a most unusual year at Arendsvlei high school”. It has a crew of 40 people and a cast that includes more than 65 actors. Along the way, we’ve met a wide range of diverse characters – each on their own personal journey, searching for love, safety, identity or power. At the heart of the series is the question: Will Arendsvlei be able to survive this turbulent year as a beacon of hope for its people, and with its core principles intact?

3. Authentic Cape Town “taal”

Part of what makes Arendsvlei feel so real is the unmistakable Afrikaans dialect the characters speak, which is exactly what you’ll hear on the streets of Cape Town. Scriptwriter Theltom Masimila says “the language use is authentically Cape-based, very comfortable and belonging to the people whose stories we are telling.”

4. A melting pot of real-life issues

Arendsvlei excels at tackling real-life issues facing communities living on the Cape Flats. Unflinching, yet with a lot of sensitivity, the show addresses issues ranging from mental illness, abuse, homophobia, drug abuse, patriarchy and teenage pregnancy to domestic and gun violence.

“People are living our story in their worlds,” says kykNET producer Janine Cornelius. “Not everyone has good intentions and they influence other people’s lives, directly or indirectly. This show is telling stories from people without that platform. There is murder, crime, scandal, hope, dreams – everything. Just like the real world.”

5. Inspired by real life

Arendsvlei was produced by Penguin Films and filmed at Atlantic Studios in Milnerton, Cape Town. It’s from the mind of writer Theltom Masimila, who worked on the story for six years. “I worked on the scripts for 7de Laan and Suidooster,” he explains. “In 2015, I actually planned for this to be a short story – not a TV production.”

After submitting it to a magazine as a short story (although the magazine never received it), he spoke to producer Roberta Durrant at Penguin Films. “We prepared a submission for kykNET & kie. They loved it and we left with an undertaking for a 156-episode telenovela.” It’s very much based on Theltom’s own life growing up. “Family members, including my dad, are teachers. I used them as my inspiration. This is their story.”

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