Lights, Camera, Action: Reviewing KROTOA


Opened at Cinemas: 4 August, 2017

Age Restriction: 13SV

Running time: 122 minutes

Language: Afrikaans with English subtitles

The highly anticipated KROTOA finally hit the big screen on 04 August and although it performed well at the box-office I am personally still rather irresolute about the latest offering from Penguin Films.

On paper everything is right – from the director and producer to the writers and the cast. Even the cinematography is nothing short of spectacular and the soundtrack is both relevant and memorable. Yet something is amiss, lacking.

Set in Cape Town when Cape Town was nothing but a hovel, Charis Williams is cute as a button as an 11-year old Krotoa who is taken away from her Khoi tribe to serve Armand Aucamp’s Jan van Riebeeck. She grows into a visionary young woman, renamed Eva and ultimately becomes Van Riebeeck’s translator and peace negotiator. This is where the first hindrance comes in: Jan van Riebeeck is being depicted as a suave charmer who takes a liking to the young girl and then promptly rapes her right after she is vilified in what I believe was an unnecessary scene. There is no concrete historical evidence of the rape, it is all just based on assumption. Relatively speaking such an assumption is probably a far less-bitter pill to swallow than the inconceivable idea that a man of Van Riebeeck’s stature could actually have betrayed his roots by falling in love with an inconsequential girl like Krotoa.

The second snag in the film comes in the way Krotoa is treated after her marriage to Danish doctor Pieter van Meerhof. After reading a lot of negative comments from mainly the Cape Coloured community on social media I decided to conduct some research prior to watching the movie and there are indeed a couple of flaws with regards to historical context. The general disdain or inter-racial marriages only surfaced in the 1700’s, long after Krotoa died in 1674 which leaves one with the question ‘What is the purpose of portraying the marriage in such a bad light in the movie?’.

Crystal-Donna Roberts does a solid job in portraying the older Krotoa but there is little room for gradation as her role is scripted to be pretty much subservient and one-dimensional. The story of Krotoa is such an important one to be told but needs to be done with great care and sensitivity. Although this is an applaudable attempt by writers Kaye Ann Williams and Margaret Goldsmid together with acclaimed filmmaker Roberta Durrant, it is understandable why it has left a number of moviegoers incensed. The movie, as noble as the intentions behind it may be, was not made for a native coloured audience. The story of the Goringhaicona has been whitewashed and no amount of international acclaim can undo this.


Author: Justine Bishop

Untamed, outspoken and just a little bit crazy.

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