The butt of South African jokes comes to life on the big screen
How many Van der Merwes does it take to stop a wedding? Maybe just the one. That is, if he can get it right just this one time.
Strap in and hold on tight to your stereotypes, because the butt of South Africa’s favourite jokes is coming to the big screen. Van Der Merwe is a quirky new comedy about the underdog and will be released in cinemas nationwide on 28 July, 2017.
In every country there is a person who is the butt of all jokes. In Ireland, it is Paddy. In Israel, it is Hymie and in South Africa, that person is Van der Merwe… this story is about him.
Complete with his misconceptions, biases and characteristic inability to succeed, Van der Merwe is sure to make you laugh, cry and above all, cringe, as he attempts to right a grievous wrong, or make a fool of himself trying. With a loving wife, gorgeous daughter, a feisty father and a soon-to-be British son-in-law, you will be left believing in sheer luck, good or bad.
“I wanted to make a film about a single character, like ‘Ace Ventura’ or ‘Zoolander’, but with a South African flavour. Van is part of our culture, a character we can all relate to. He has a history and a place in our hearts. Bringing him to life on the big screen is something a lot of people want to see,” says director and screenwriter, Bruce Lawley about his debut feature film.
Producers Craig Jones, Bruce Macdonald, Murray Macdonald and Bruce Lawley bring you an all new tongue-in-cheek, family comedy affair, starring Rob van Vuuren (Van) and Reine Swart (Marike).
Set on a farm in South Africa, VAN DER MERWE centres around Van’s daughter, Marike, who returns home from a gap year in England with her new fiancé, George, a British medical student. This sets the scene for all sorts of problems and challenges. Not only does Van have to come to terms with the fact that his daughter is marrying an Englishman, but he is also pressured by his bossy, staunchly traditional father to put an end to the relationship. This puts him in a precarious situation with a difficult choice: risk the wrath of his father by condoning the wedding, or obey his father, whose approval he so desperately wants, and risk losing his daughter forever. When the family of the English fiancé arrives on the farm, the fireworks really begin as the clash of cultures results in a number of side-splitting incidents and hilarious situations, as we witness some classic Van der Merwe jokes played out in front of our eyes.
According to Bruce, the original script for VAN DER MERWE was written in 2005.
“We’ve all heard the jokes, but who is the man behind the myth? Who is Van der Merwe and what is he actually like? What would someone need to be like and how would they behave if they were to be the butt of all jokes? That is what the story is about. On a deeper level, the film is about overcoming differences, being true to oneself and about never giving up, no matter what the odds might be.”
Although he had the late Bill Flynn in mind when Van’s character was created, Bruce believes that Rob van Vuuren (Shucks! Your Country Needs You) turned out to be the perfect candidate to play this joke icon.
“We needed an actor with great comedic timing, in terms of both the physical comedy aspects and the dialogue. Rob is a great actor and really professional. He is incredibly funny and he brought the right mix of heart and humour to the role. He was passionate about creating a memorable and iconic character and was prepared to do whatever it took to do so. He has really funny and interesting facial expressions, very expressive eyes and a playful nature – all perfect for the character of Van.”
Light-hearted, and entertaining, the story is supported by an array of interesting characters that were specifically created to highlight Van’s shortcomings. Well-known actress, Chanelle de Jager, plays Van’s wife, Suzette, who is determined to save the day, while Ian Roberts can be seen as the overbearing Oupa Van, who is bound to strike a chord with any audience. Other actors that can be seen in the movie, include Adrienne Pearce, André Jacobs, Rika Sennett, Erica Wessels, Louw Venter, Benedikt Sebastian, Matthew Baldwin, Neels van Jaarsveld and Melt Sieberhagen to name but a few. Kurt Darren also makes a cameo appearance as a wedding singer and Barry Hilton plays Freddie, the barman and Van’s best friend.
“VAN DER MERWE is a feel good film. More than anything, we want viewers to leave cinemas smiling and with the positive message that no matter what your circumstances – or shortcomings – are, things will be okay. But you have to be able to laugh at yourself. You can’t take life too seriously. Be true to yourself, keep trying, and keep smiling,” Lawley concludes.
VAN DER MERWE promises some truly funny laughs about family politics, awkward situations and living up to the Van der Merwe title.
The film will be distributed by Ster-Kinekor Entertainment and will be released in cinemas nationwide on 28 July 2017.
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Rob van Vuuren