Etienne Kallos’s film Die Stropers (The Harvesters), which won critical acclaim at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, opens nationwide on 15 March.
An intense psychological drama exploring the coming-of-age of a new generation of Afrikaans youth, and set against an austere and dusty landscape, the film tells the story of obedient Afrikaans teenager, Janno, who witnesses his childhood come to an abrupt end on the day his fiercely religious mother, Marie, brings home a mysterious street orphan, Pieter, to foster on the family’s remote cattle farm in the Free State.
Pieter (Alex van Dyk) is an Afrikaner devoid of culture and roots. Suffering from the symptoms of drug withdrawal, and refusing to pray with the family or believe in God, the newcomer turns the devout household upside-down. Despite a growing sense of unease, the gentle and sexually confused Janno does what he is told and opens his heart to the stranger.
“The loss of childhood is a universal experience, but I wanted to give it a rural setting,” says Kallos. “When you live in a city you dominate space, whereas in the countryside, it’s the other way around: the land and the elements control you. The silence of the countryside exaggerates every decision you make, every action you take, and throws it back at you.”
As the brotherhood between the two boys deepens, Pieter’s health and wellbeing improve, and the two partake in the annual maize harvest together. But as Pieter’s strength returns, so do his appetites for sex and drugs. Soon the brothers are locked in a dangerous struggle for power and identity. Ultimately, Janno is faced with one question: does he belong in the conservative community or is he destined to forge a new path in an Africa that lies beyond?
Die Stropers had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, where it received a standing ovation from the audience.
Kallos says he was drawn to the story of a community in a post-post-colonial world that finds itself increasingly isolated. “What is interesting is that the new generation of Afrikaners has been born outside the apartheid regime and is moving into some sort of a new Africa and that raises questions of identity and belonging that the film tries to explore. I set out to make a film about place. We worked hard to somehow capture the grandeur of a landscape that is bigger than its people.”
The film has already won a number of international awards including:
- Sundance/Mahindra ‘Global Filmmaker Award’
- Gan Foundation, ‘Prix Opening Shot Award’
- Rome International Film Festival ‘Alice Nella Citta Jury Award for Best First Feature’
- Cheries-Cheris Film Festival, ‘Grand Prix’ Award
- African Film Festival of Khouribga, ‘Best Director’ Award
Die Stropers is Kallos’s first feature film. A graduate of Ney York University, his short non-fiction film Jane’s Birthday Trip screened at the Berlin International Film Festival and was a national finalist for the Student Academy Awards. His fiction short, No Exit screened at 2006 Slamdance Film Festival and another short, doorman, was presented at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival (Cinéfondation section) and at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. His thesis film, Firstborn, was the first Afrikaans-language film to win the Corto Cortissimo Lion d’Or for Best Short Film at the Venice Film Festival in 2009.
The film’s investors include the KwaZulu Natal Film Commission, Agence Film France, the Greek Film Institute, the Polish Film Institute, and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). It is South African- French-Greek-Polish co-production and produced by Spier Films.
Die Stropers is distributed in South Africa by Indigenous Film Distribution.