Menán van Heerden chats to Kaye Ann Williams, one of the writers of the Krotoa movie.
The film is inspired by true historical facts and events. How do you as writers/director of the film balance correct historical facts and creative freedom?
When we were workshopping the direction of the script, our focus was always Krotoa’s personal journey. The film had to be from her point of view and represent her voice. This informed every decision we made creatively.
Kaye Ann, you directed a 2013 SABC 1 documentary about Krotoa's life as part of the Hidden Histories documentary series (produced by Roberta Durrant). How did the writing of the film script for Krotoa differ from directing a documentary?
The documentary was very much focused on the facts of her life (the few that were available to us), and on allowing the audience to form an opinion of her life based on the historical facts, the research materials and the opinions of the various historians we engaged with, whereas, with the film, we wanted to map out a possible journey of Krotoa’s life, colouring in the historical facts with character, narrative and story.
How do you think international and local audiences will react to the film?
I think both the international and the local audiences will be fascinated by her life. However, the local audiences might find our take on her story – and, by consequence, Jan van Riebeeck’s story – uncomfortable. What I’m ultimately hoping is that this film will stimulate dialogue and discourse.
How important is it to focus on the role of women and indigenous people in South African history?
It is extremely important, as it is so neglected, not just in South Africa, but also in the rest of the world. Often, our history books are written by men and have a male perspective, and the female perspective is misrepresented or overlooked. We do not appreciate what women have contributed to the shaping of our history. Hopefully, this film hones in on this.
What do you think the role of films is in teaching history, especially if they are inspired by historical facts and events?
Films are there to stimulate discourse, and to bring about awareness of issues to remind us where we come from. Often, we forget how strong we are as a nation, and just focus on the negative. But film is meant to enlighten and ignite change. This will hopefully be the end result for Krotoa.