SBAM artists reflect on Noem My Skollie

By Laurie Scarborough

Four SBAM artists were involved in South Africa’s official Foreign Language Film Academy Award submission, Noem My Skollie.

The Afrikaans film, released late last year, tells the true story of John W Fredericks (named AB in the film), a young gang leader, who is arrested and tries to turn his life around while in jail. He resists the calling from the Numbers, a large syndicate of gangs that exist inside the confined walls of jail. The Numbers not only control the inmates, but also the wardens and those on the outside that have been inducted into a Numbers gang. Turning away from gangsterism, AB becomes a storyteller, an author. The movie is based on his autobiographic book.

The movie was praised for its accurate depiction of Cape Coloured culture during the 60s, which persists to the present. Junaid Booysen, who played Miley, says his character came naturally to him: “How do we prepare for this movie? We didn’t need to; this is what we face, every day. It’s like The Days of Our Lives in our community.”

The movie also kept the authenticity of the story by using real ex-convicts, some still on parole, for the background artists and bit-players. Peter Butler says, “These guys are the real deal.”

Peter, who played Timer, an older 27 (one of the Numbers gangs), an ex-assassin doing life in prison, says he wanted to look as genuine as possible, so he stopped shaving and let his hair grow out. He says, “I loved playing Timer. I enjoy character work.” Because he played a hardened character, Peter did some research into prisons and also used John W Frederick, who was on set frequently, as a resource.

Andre Roothman and Leonard Moss both played prosecutors in the court scenes, so you can spot them there. Leonard’s scene is the near the beginning of the film, when AB is convicted for a misdemeanor, which sets off a chain of dealings in crime. Leonard says he knows a few prosecutors and based his character on one specific prosecutor. Andre says, “I was challenged by the character’s human dilemma when facing the entitlement of Imperialist force at the time.”

Because the film tells an important story about crime, struggle, and identity during Apartheid in the coloured community, Andre says there was a different atmosphere on set to other projects he’s worked on. “The content was a matter of owning history, warts and all,” he says.

Noem My Skollie has recently been released on DVD and is now available in movie rental stores. If you need further encouragement, I’ll leave you with Peter’s comment on the movie: “I knew the script had the potential to reach people, but never imagined such runaway success. It’s a job really well done by a multitude of talented people. Wow!”

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