30 July 2015
The Endless River, a film by South African director Oliver Hermanus, made history this week as the first South African film selected to compete for the Venice International Film Festival’s Golden Lion award. Lead actress Crystal Donna Roberts has been nominated for a Best Actress award.
The Golden Lion selection represents the greatest cinematic achievement from around the world in the past year, with hundreds of films considered and only the best nominated. Previous winners include 2014’s Best Picture Oscar-winning Birdman by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Brokeback Mountain and The Wrestler.
Hermanus’s film, set in the Overberg, in Western Cape, is an intense human drama about a French expatriate and a waitress who form an unlikely bond after a brutal murder. Roberts plays the waitress.
Competition for Hermanus this year includes the animated feature Anomalisa, by Charlie Kaufman, who wrote Being John Malkovich; the Laurie Anderson film Heart of a Dog; and The Danish Girl by director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), starring Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne.
“We are thrilled about this prestigious selection. it is a great achievement for Oliver, the entire team and the broader South African industry,” the film’s producer, Genevieve Hofmeyr, told News24.
Hermanus paid tribute to his lead actress, saying: “It’s a great opportunity to celebrate the achievement of South African acting.” He hoped the country “got behind” her achievement. “It’s a huge deal. Coloured actresses get typecast, so this is a big breakthrough,” he said.
This is not the first taste of international success for the Cape Town filmmaker. Hermanus’s ground-breaking film, Skoonheid, won the Queer Palm Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was considered, but not shortlisted, for a Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. He also wrote and directed the provocative Shirley Adams.
The Venice Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the world, dating back to 1932, and is regarded as the most illustrious European platform for inventive international filmmakers and innovative films.
The Endless River will be released in South Africa in 2015/16 by Black Sheep Films.