18 October 2019
Trackers is a must-watch TV event
On Sunday, 27 October at 8pm, Trackers will debut on South African screens. It’s an authentically South African story, told by one of our greatest writers, Deon Meyer, and showcasing SA’s incredible talent, locations and cultures.
It’s a watershed moment for South African TV: Trackers was made in collaboration with HBO’s sister network Cinemax and Germany’s public broadcaster ZDF, ensuring international distribution right off the bat.
The pacy story and brilliant acting will have people around the world enthralled, but South Africans have an extra reason to watch. It showcases some stunning locations around the country, from the Bo-Kaap to Beitbridge, on the SA/Zimbabwe border.
Speaking at the red carpet event at Montecasino in Johannesburg, where the first highly anticipated episode was premiered, author and filmmaker Meyer said: “I’ve had some of my work adapted by international production companies and I can tell you this is better, because it’s South African-made.”
Those all-important locations, which consistently provide a real sense of place in Meyer’s books, have been faithfully recreated in the series. “It’s something we worked very hard at – to shoot at locations featured in the book and let the beauty of our country shine,” says Meyer.
“I’ve had some of my work adapted by international production companies and I can tell you this is better, because it’s South African-made.”Deon Meyer
From book to screen
Trackers is, by Meyer’s own admission, one of the most complex novels he has written, which weaves together three distinctive and separate stories ultimately into one gripping plot – mainly because he couldn’t decide which one to pursue before finding they could all work together. It made for a challenging adaptation.
Without giving away any spoilers, the opening title sequence is breathtaking, and the first episode is explosive. Readers should be happy with the treatment, even though they’ll notice some very obvious differences and liberties that had to be taken with the dense text to keep things moving swiftly along.
“We did have to leave out certain things, but the heart is there,” says Meyer, who was closely involved with the screenwriting, like a shadow figure, a “parent looking after the children”. Whether he means the other writers or the characters was not specified. “And even for people who have read the book, there are some lovely surprises,” he adds.
He’s not kidding, and you’ll know exactly what he’s talking about when you watch. There’s one monumental shock in episode one. “Surprise” is an understatement.
SA’s top talent
The characters have been accurately brought to life, in our opinion and in Meyer’s.
“Once you make the mental (and emotional) leap of accepting that your character needs to have a real flesh and blood presence, the huge acting talent in this country makes it easy,” he says.
In the ensemble are James Gracie (sometimes billed as James Alexander) as moody and mysterious Lemmer and Trix Vivier as the vet Flea, whose task it is to bring two rhinos from Beitbridge to Loxton in the Karoo. The driver of the truck is Lourens le Riche (played by Gerald Steyn), who shines brightly in this relatively small role.
In another story arc, we have Milla (Rolanda Marais, Wolwedans in die Skemer), the 40-something suburban housewife who takes the brave step of leaving her husband and teenage son, only to inadvertently become involved in the investigation into a possible terror attack by Muslim extremists led by Osman (Brendon Daniels). Milla’s boss is Janina Mentz played by Sandi Schultz (Hotel) and her right-hand man is Quinn, played by Thapelo Mokoena (Dominee Tienie).
Joining Osman as the second major villain of the piece is Inkunzi (Zulu: The Bull), played by Sisanda Henna (Donkerland), who brings the all red velvet tracksuited manic and brutal gangster to his first scenes, and then some.
All the action unfolds against an atmospheric soundtrack by the award-winning Brendan Jury. And it only adds to the tension in this must-watch TV series that will change the way we see local productions.