Suzelle’s DIY book shows that anybody can.

If you have not watched any SuzelleDIY videos yet, where have you been?! The boeremeisie from Somerset-West has become the queen of YouTube in South Africa since she first emerged two years ago, presenting bite-sized, highly original, and comical videos on Do-It-Yourself. And, all of them work.

With her thick Afrikaans accent, colourful outfits, and big hair, Suzelle has entertained the public and become a celebrity in her own right. Who can forget “How to peel a lot of potatoes” (with a toilet brush), “How to use a pool noodle to protect your car doors”, or “How to make a braai pie”? Now, the DIY doyenne has released a colourful book, containing instructions for many of her most popular projects. There are sections on Household, The Kitchen, Wellness, Car, and “Green” DIY, AND, her best friend and quiet assistant, Marianne, has her own chapter, which includes “How to make choc-nut puppy truffles” and “How to make a T-shirt cat tent”.

And if you buy the book, you’ll find smartphone links to secret videos available to no one else. Suzelle has become a beloved and quirky character in South Africa.

I had a chance to sit down and talk to her about which videos are her favourite, whether Marianne might get a bigger speaking role, and whether she has any romantic interests (as well as some DIY romance tips). Listen to the podcast below.

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“Dis ek, Anna” is powerful, disturbing, and punches you in the stomach. It’s the best local film this year.

The young woman’s face is determined as she drives through the night. She’s shaking. It’s clear there is anger, and perhaps something else, boiling beneath the surface. Her small frame and short blonde hair hint at a vulnerability. A road sign shows she’s headed for Bloemfontein.

She arrives at a house and rings the bell. It’s raining, and she’s soaked. Inside, a couple lies sleeping. A woman wakes up and tells the man next to her to check who is at the door, thinking it might be their daughter who’s forgotten her keys. The man asks who’s outside. The young woman answers, “Dis ek, Anna” (It’s me, Anna). The man is surprised and opens the door. He recognises the woman as his stepdaughter. He goes outside, and then sees the gun pointing at him. The young woman is crying. Shots are heard.

When Anna Bruwer (Charlene Brouwer) hands herself over to police and admits to shooting her stepfather, Danie du Toit, (Morné Visser), lead detective, Windhond Webber (Marius Weyers) is mystified about the motive. When he asks why she shot Danie, Anna says “I had to. Somebody had to.” Then, she tells her story.

12-year old Anna’s life is thrown into disarray, when her alcoholic father and her mother, Johanna (Nicola Hanekom) divorce. Johanna moves on and marries her boss, Danie, an easy going, friendly man who accepts Anna (Izel Bezuidenhout) as his own daughter. But when Danie’s affectionate hugs turn into inappropriate touching, Anna knows something is wrong. One night, as the family is lying on the floor watching television, Danie molests Anna under the blanket. The young girl is so shocked she is unable to move.

Molestation becomes sexual assault becomes rape. Danie makes it clear that if Anna tells anyone, her mother, and little half-sister, Carli, will suffer. Anna’s innocence is destroyed. As a teenager, she desperately tries to forget her torment by sneaking out to go to parties, smoking, sleeping with boys. When Danie finds out, he is furious and attacks Anna’s boyfriend, labelling Anna a slut and whore. The one time she tries to confide in anyone, her pastor, she is merely told to pray.

Dis ek, Anna, is the most powerful, disturbing, and important local film to be released this year. Based on Anchien Trotskie’s two semi-autobiographical novels (which she wrote under the pseudonym, Elbie Lotter), it details Anna’s abuse, as well as her murder trial. The film is graphic, and the director, Sara Blecher, fought for the initial age restriction of 18 to be changed to 16, so that it can be screened at schools and help educate girls about sexual abuse. This fight was won.

The subject matter makes this film intensely difficult to watch; it’s gruelling, devastating, and heart-wrenching. But, with the staggering statistics of the sexual abuse of children in South Africa, it’s never been as imperative to see a story like this. Blecher doesn’t shy away from punching you in the gut. Her telling of the physical and psychological effects of child abuse is bold and brutally honest – commendable for a topic that isn’t discussed enough publically.

The acting is superb. Charlene Brouwer and Izel Bezuidenhout are outstanding as the older and younger Anna respectively. Morné Visser induces disgust and fury in the viewer as Danie du Toit, while Nicola Hanekom’s Johanna cuts a pathetic figure as a mother who knew her daughter was being abused, and chose to ignore it.

The film has won numerous awards at the Silwerskerm-fees, including Best Film, Best Director for Sarah Blecher, and Best Male Lead for Morné Visser. The movie will now head for the international festival circuit. It will be screened in Edinburgh, Scotland at the end of this month for The Africa in Motion Festival, before the producers head to London for a seminar at the Royal African Society Film Festival where they will discuss the movie, and then set up private screenings.  In December, the film will be shown in Amsterdam as part of Post-Apartheid Cinema – A South African Focus before heading to the Palm Springs International Film Festival in California.  There is also interest in the film from festivals in Sweden and Dubai.

If there is one local film that must be watched this year, it is Dis ek, Anna. This is the kind of movie that shows South Africa can compete with the best in the international film circuit. It’s a story about pain, courage, and redemption.

Director: Sarah Blecher

Cast: Charlene Brouwer, Izel Bezuidenhout, Morné Visser, Nicola Hanekom, Marius Weyers.

Rating: 4 out of 5

SA release date: 23 October 2015

The Diary of a Teenage Girl – a refreshingly unconventional take on teenage sexuality.

“I had sex today. Holy shit.”

15-year old Minnie Goetze is walking across the park, a smile spreading across her face at this thought. The gawky girl wears it a like a badge of honour. Her face is radiant as she passes groups of hippies. Until a jogger with an ample bosom passes her, and she looks down at her own, much smaller chest. There it is. One of the most seminal moments in many a girl’s existence: obsessing over whether your breasts are big enough.

It’s 1976. San Francisco. The sexual revolution and time free love of have dawned.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl is one of the most refreshingly unconventional films made about puberty in, like, bloody forever. Based on the 2002 semi-autobiographical graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, this is a bold account of a young girl’s sexual awakening that will shock you, make you laugh, and break your heart just a little.

On the day she loses her virginity, Minnie (Bel Powler) walks home, closes the door to her room, takes out an old tape recorder and microphone, and begins to record her diary.

About how she had sex with her mother’s 35-year old boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård).

There is no guilt involved, however. Minnie’s relationship with her mother, Charlotte (Kristen Wiig), is one in which mother and daughter act like sisters, though the beautiful, haughty, life-of-the-party Charlotte is somewhat dismissive of Minnie’s distinct disinterest in make-up, skirts, and boys (oh how you were mistaken there, Charlotte).

For Minnie, sex means she’s officially an adult. She continues sleeping with Monroe, diarising her experiences in graphic detail, both verbally and in her sketch book. The aspiring cartoonist/comic book artist creates stunning and moving drawings of her hopes, adventures and fantasies, that come to life through animation, giving the film an ethereal feel. Having sex makes Minnie feel free and confident, but at the same time there is the typical self-consciousness inherent to teenagehood. She wonders whether her body is attractive enough, whether she’s fat, whether she’s pretty. She enjoys sex, and wants more. While standing in a record store, a sketched, cartoon penis drops down from the ceiling, as she wonders, “Do other people think about fucking as much as I do?”

But, like most 15-year olds who are caught in a storm of intense emotions, Minnie also wants to fall in love. “I want someone to be so totally in love with me that they would feel like they would die if I didn’t love them back,” she tells her diary. And later… “I want a body pressed up next to me, just to know that I’m really here.”

It being the 70s, drugs are everywhere. Minnie gets high with her mother, with Monroe, and with her best friend, Kimmie. At first, it may appear that the film glorifies drugs, but later, it also reveals the falsehood of chemically-induced happiness. The story is inherently controversial, not because it’s so unashamed about sex (that shouldn’t warrant any controversy, though people being people there will be yacking about ‘promiscuity’ and ‘morality’), but because of the Lolita-factor. Does the film endorse the relationship between a 35-year old man and a 15-year old girl, even though she may be the instigator? Is this downplaying what would come down to statutory rape? It’s a disturbing thought and that’s really a question for the viewer to decide. While there is an obvious and undeniable power play in the relationship between an adult and teenager, Minnie also learns to stand her ground.

Bel Powler gives one of the freshest, most powerfully intense, and comic performances of the year as the idiosyncratic Minnie. There is beauty in her awkwardness, in her honesty, in the intensity of her emotions, underwritten by the hormones that are coursing through her veins. Wigg delivers Charlotte with dark humour and a tinge of sadness while Swedish heartthrob Skarsgård shows why he is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl is introspective and funny and beautiful and really just a magnificent film, but certainly not for anyone squeamish about sex or uncomfortable with intimate, almost pornographic (but not unrealistic) descriptions of it. These aren’t necessarily there for shock value, though some of my older, male colleagues walked out of the film before the end, while others made disapproving noises.

This honest story takes you into the headspace of a girl and reveals those thoughts that usually go unvoiced – the ones about your insecurities, your bad body image, about sex, and love, and life. It’s about the myriad contradictory and turbulent feelings that pull like weights at your heart and makes you want to explode with something that you don’t yet have the vocabulary to describe.

This is the indie film of the year.

Director: Marielle Heller

Cast: Bel Powler, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wigg

Rating: 5 out of 5

SA release date: 23 October 2015