South Africa, Free State region, isolated stronghold to the Afrikaans white ethnic minority culture. In this conservative farming territory obsessed with strength and masculinity, Janno (Brent Vermeulen) is different, secretive, emotionally frail. One day his mother, fiercely religious, brings home Pieter (Alex van Dyk), a hardened street orphan she wants to save, and asks Janno to makes this stranger into his brother. The two boys start a fight for power, heritage and parental love. An official selection of Cannes Un Certain Regard, Etienne Kallos‘ debut feature film The Harvesters explores teenage angst, sexual awakening and family dynamics set against a harsh yet stunning South African backdrop.
Could you tell us a little about your background prior to this feature debut?
I am a Greek-South African from Cape Town and my first love was theatre. I did my Bachelors in play-writing and stage design. This is where I met a mentor who changed my path: the Afrikaans playwright Reza de Wet. She wrote in Afrikaans, the language of Afrikaners, the descendants of the first Dutch settlers who arrived in South Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries.
‘Afrikaner’ is the old Dutch word for ‘African’. Reza is probably the most translated Afrikaans playwright in the world. I first attended her class when I was 17 years old. Her plays showed me new ways to explore the South African experience, especially in the post-colonial era. Her work isn’t political, but rather mythological, some might say it’s gothic. She’s the one who first told me about the eastern Free State, the region where The Harvesters was born as a project. We shot between Free State and KwaZulu Natal, the bordering region which is the only one to have funded the film.