Manie van Rensburg

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Manie van Rensburg (1945–1993) was a film director and scriptwriter.


Hermanus Philippus (Manie) Janse van Rensburg was born in Krugersdorp on 24 October, 1945 to Charl Francois Janse van Rensburg and Hermanni Philippa van Aswegen. As a young teenager he played the organ at the local Dutch Reformed Church and is said to have bought his first 8mm movie camera with his earnings. At high school he was involved in the film society, but though his application to study at the London Film School was accepted, his parents insisted that he complete a teaching degree at the University of Potchefstroom, where he majored in English and Psychology.

However, at the age of 21 he came to the National Film Board of South Africa as a general assistant and soon afterwards he went off on his own. In 1971 he completed two documentaries and then joined Kavalier Films, for whom he made his first feature, a romantic study of loneliness in Hillbrow entitled Freddie’s in Love (1971), starring Franz Marx. This was followed by three more features, of which the political satire Die Square (1974), with Cobus Rossouw and Rika Sennett, was probably the best.

Although he is generally acknowledged to have been one of South Africa’s most distinctive and versatile filmmakers, it is in television that he really made his mark. Between 1975 and 1987 he directed a number of television films and series, most of which attracted prominent actors and were well received by critics and the general public alike. Amongst them were the very popular series Willem (1976), with Tobie Cronje and Katinka Heyns, and two one-offs starring Sandra Prinsloo, namely Anna (1982) and Die Vuurtoring (1984). Many of these were produced for the SABC by Visio Films, the company he had launched in 1976.

The year 1987 saw a change in his fortunes. In May of that year he and many other film and stage personalities signed an open letter to the government of the time calling for the abolition of detention without trial and the victimization of children, the Group Areas Act, censorship in all its forms and the State of Emergency. Organised by Jonathan Rands and Richard Haines, the letter appeared in several newspapers. Then, in July, he was part of a large group of dissident Afrikaners who accompanied Frederick van Zyl Slabbert and Alex Boraine of IDASA (Institute for Democratic Altrnatives in South Africa) to Dakar to meet with a delegation of the ANC in exile. Upon his return he found that his services were no longer required by the SABC.

With no access to the television network, he returned to the cinema. His first film in 15 years was The Native Who Caused All the Trouble (1989), based on a play by Danny Keogh, Vanessa Cooke and Nicholas Haysom, originally staged by Robert Whitehead at the Market Theatre. This was followed by The Fourth Reich, based on the capture of Robey Leibbrandt after his return from Nazi Germany, and finally the comedy Taxi to Soweto (1991), with Marius Weyers, Elize Cawood, Patrick Shai and Ramolao Makhene in the leading roles.

It was to be his last film. Following an accident in which he had badly injured his back, he was in constant pain and thus confined to a wheelchair. On 3 December 1993 he shot himself at his house in Melville, Johannesburg.

He was married twice, first to Anita Maria Erasmus and in 1979 to actress Grethe Fox, from whom he was separated at the time of his death.


Features as Director

1971 – Freddie’s in Love (+ screenplay with Franz Marx & Nic van Rensburg & producer), 1973 – Die Bankrower (+ screenplay with Chris Barnard), 1974 – Geluksdal, 1974 – Die Square (+ screenplay with Cobus Louw), 1989 – The Native Who Caused All the Trouble (+ producer), 1990 – The Fourth Reich, 1991 – Taxi to Soweto (+ screenplay with Marina Bekker & associate producer).

Television as Director

1975 – Oom Willem en die Lord (television movie) (+ producer), 1976 – Willem (television series), 1976 – Sebastian Senior (television series), 1980 – Mickey Kannis Caught my Eye (television movie), 1980 – Dokter Con Viljee se Overberg (television series), 1981 – Die Perdesmous (television movie), 1982 – Country Lovers (television movie), 1982 – Verspeelde Lente (television series), 1982 – Anna (television movie) (+ screenplay), 1983 - Anna Meintjies (television movie) (+ screenplay), 1983 – Good News! (television series), 1983 – Sagmoedige Neelsie (television series), 1984 – Die Vuurtoring (television movie) (+ producer), 1986 – Heroes (television series) (+ producer & screenplay, both with Johan van Jaarsveld), 1987 – The Mantis Project (television series), 1992 – The Fourth Reich (television series).

Documentaries as Director

1971 – Great Karoo / Die Groot Karoo, 1971 – Bottles (+ cinematography & editing).


1966 – Woman Triumphant / Ek Sien Haar Wen (documentary) (music) (Director: Neil Curry) 1967 – Hoor my Lied / Hear my Song (assistant cameraman) (Director: Elmo de Witt) 1969 – Danie Bosman: die Verhaal van die Grootste S.A. Komponis (one of six editors) (Director: Elmo de Witt) 1970 – Lied in my Hart / Song in my Heart (assistant- & musical editor) (Director: Ivan Hall) 1972 – My Broer se Bril (co-producer) (Director: Dirk de Villiers) 1991 – Taxi to Soweto (actor – uncredited) (Director: Manie van Rensburg)

As Himself

1984 – Op Soek na ‘n Karakter / Sandra Prinsloo: Op Soek na ‘n Karakter (Directors: Carl Theunissen & André van den Heever)


Blignaut, Johan & Botha, Martin - Movies, moguls, mavericks: South African cinema 1979-1991 (1992)

Botha, Martin & Dethier, Hubert - Kronieken van Zuid-Afrika: de films van Manie van Rensburg (1997)

Le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla – Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm (1982)

Toffoli, Hilary Prendini & Silber, Gus - Who's really who in South Africa (1989)

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