Donker Spore

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Screening Details

Running Time: unknown (Black and White) / Copyright Date: unknown / Release Date: 5 October 1944 (premiere) / Language: Afrikaans / Genre: Crime / Alternative Title: none.

Synopsis

Sarel van Duine, fresh from university, applies for a job as reporter with Die Burger. He impresses the editor, Mr. Rompel, who immediately sends him to Ladismith where a seemingly supernatural murder has been committed. A man called Tys Lootsman has been killed while riding home through a pass and, inexplicably, there are no clues whatsoever. Sarel attends the magistrate's hearing and befriends the main witness, a local farmer named Koos Kok, who accompanied the widow when went she went out to look for her husband. Pretending to gather background material for a series of articles for the newspaper, Sarel investigates the murder while staying with Oom Koos, Tant Treinie and their daughter, Liena. Also nearby lives Prof. Mierdyk, who taught Sarel at university, with his daughter, Elsie. Mierdyk has gone mad since the death of his wife, while the pass also harbours a hermit called Windskut, who is seldom seen.... (Summary based on C.J. Langenhoven's original story, not the film itself)

Context

While produced with extremely limited technical resources and a general lack of experience amongst cast and crew, Donker Spore was one of the first independently produced, commercially released Afrikaans feature films. Based on a story by C.J. Langenhoven first published in 1926, it was shot on 16mm with synchronised sound, with everyone learning as they went along. Production started early in 1943 and the film was released in October of that year, showing in halls throughout the country. Though the original story is set near Ladismith in the old Cape Province, it was filmed in the Hennops River area near Centurion in Gauteng, with some interiors shot in the Roodepoort's Magistrate's Court. Some changes must have been made to the original story, as Gideon Roos would not have been old enough to play Esther Mentz's father. In fact, in real life they were husband and wife. Of particular interest is the fact that no fewer than six cast or crew members had or would have a connection with the SABC, namely Douglas Fuchs, J.F. Marais, Gideon Roos, Hester Roux, Jan Schutte and Louis Wiesner. The most curious aspect of the film is the participation of Merl LaVoy, an internationally famous news photographer, the only American amongst a group of generally nationalist Afrikaners. Though widely shown, the film did not receive great reviews and its deficiencies were freely admitted by Utolo Films, a small production company that was determined to establish an Afrikaans film industry. However, for directors Blok and Marais it was to be their only attempt at filmmaking.

(Note: A single print survives at the National Film, Video and Sound Archives, donated by the son of production manager Louis Wiesner)

Cast

Jan Schutte (Sarel van Duine), Esther Mentz (Lina), Gideon Roos (Koos Kok), Thomas Blok (Windskut), Hester Roux (Tant Treinie), Piet Meiring (Magistrate), Douglas Fuchs (Dr. du Toit), Chicken Pienaar (State Prosecutor), Betsie Duvenhage (Johanna Lootsman), Cisca Marais (Elsie), Jannie Botha (Steyn Vermeulen), Gus Cluver (Editor), Louis Carney (Tys Lootsman), Len Cilliers (Reporter), Kobus Esterhuizen (Reporter), Monty Heyns (Reporter), Willie Muller (Reporter), Wouter du Toit (Student), S. van Niekerk (Student), Francois Retief, Jannie van Zyl.

Crew

Production Company: Utolo Films / Producers & Directors: Thomas Blok & J.F. Marais / Adaptation: Sarah Goldblatt from a novelle by C.J. Langenhoven / Photography: Merl LaVoy & Danie Wium / Production Manager & Editor: Louis Wiesner / Sound: Heinz du Preez & Frans Cronje / Make-up: Joan Human.

Sources

Trek, 3 November 1944 (Review by Hans Eyck)

Filma, December 1944

Le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla – Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm

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