Afrikaans romcom sets the bar higher

 

I am not a fan of Afrikaans comedy, despite Afrikaans being my home language. The Schuster slapstick, musical wish-wash I have come to expect fromt his genre has left a bitter taste in my mouth. Not so with the new film Semi-Soet (Semi-Sweet) though. This film – which is being touted as the first romantic comedy that follows the Hollywood formula in Afrikaans – has a surprising amount of wit and romance.

Following their critically acclaimed, very serious independent feature film, Discreet (2008), husband and wife producers/actors Anel and James Alexander decided they wanted to do something a little more fun and do it in a vernacular language.

Workaholic, ambitious Jaci (Anel)  will do anything to prevent the advertising agency she works for from being taken over by a ruthless businessman dubbed “The Jackal” (Nico Panagio of Survivor-fame).  Her only hope is to land a big advertising deal with an acclaimed wine farm. But, the snag is the client wants someone who represents family values and who is in a long-term relationship. So, what’s a single girl to do? Jaci hires a gorgeous model to pretend to be her fiancée for a few hours, not knowing he is actually “The Jackal”.

To further complicate matters, Jaci has to pitch her campaign against that of her ex-fiancé, Marcus (Paul du Toit), who is now engaged to a ditzy blonde, Madri, who is well played by Diaan Lawrenson (the equally ditzy blonde, Paula, in 7de Laan).

The plot is a familiar, predictable one – exactly what a moviegoer would expect from a regular Hollywood romcom. It has all the right ingredients:  girl meets boy, obstacles stand in the way, the relationship hits a snag but love prevails in the end. It works for the Americans and it works here as well.

What makes Semi-Soet refreshing is that the humour is endemic to South Africa and it is encouraging to see this kind of movie being made in Afrikaans. The script is witty and tight, and the filming, slick and professional (no sense of it being filmed in someone’s backyard with their mother’s handy-cam). The comic timing of the scene in which the couple is chased across a farm by a pig had me in stitches.

Semi-Soet is easy-going, fun entertainment that hopefully sets the tone for a more intelligent kind of Afrikaans comedy.

To listen to my interview with Anel Alexander and her husband James (who produced the film), click here

 

Director: Joshua Rous

Cast: Anel Alexander, Nico Panagio, Corinne du Toit, Paul du Toit, Diaan Lawrenson

Rating: 3½ out of 5

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