By Leila Stein
Local filmmakers Jordy Sank and Gabriella Blumberg have yet again scooped up awards for their latest film — this time for a deeply moving short fiction Leemtes en Leegheid (aka A Void).
Along with co-producer Samantha Pelteret and co-writer Terence Makapan, the team won Best Short Film, Audience Choice and Best Script for their film Leemtes en Leegheid at the kykNET Silwerskerm Film Festival. The festival celebrates and awards Afrikaans films.
“It’s a festival that we’ve always aspired to part of, but we really did not expect the awards. It was amazing to be there in person,” says Gabriella.
“To win the audience award is just great because you’re making the film for audiences. No matter their film literacy, you want it to connect with people. So to win an audience award shows that you’re resonating with people. Then to win the Jury Award for Best Short Film shows that film critics and industry professionals value the filmmaking techniques. So it’s amazing to have both of those wins in the same night,” she says.
Exploring grief and loneliness
The story follows Magdaleen, played by the incomparable South African actor Lida Botha. She is an elderly woman who is struggling to deal with the loss of her husband, shutting herself in her apartment. We follow Magdaleen as she comes to terms with her reality, and attempts to accept it.
The premise first came to Jordy when talking to Ella Blumenthal, the subject of their previous award winning documentary film I am Here, as she discussed her own experience of losing her husband in the early 90s.
“The storyline for our film really is what do you do when the love of your life, with whom you’ve spent 50 or 60 years of your life, passes away. It’s a really difficult life change to deal with. That’s where the concept really came from. This one was really about an exploration of grief and loss and learning to accept it,” explains Jordy.
“I think, unfortunately, loss and losing loved ones is just something that is inevitable for all of us. No matter if it’s a spouse, another family member or a dear friend, we’ve all felt loss and we all are going to feel it. So I think it’s really such a pertinent theme and I think what it really does, is it offers a window into Magdaleen’s world as she tries to cope with her loss and ultimately learns to deal with it.”
The reflection on grief was specifically apt because the film was shot during the deeper part of the COVID-19 lockdown in Cape Town.
“We were shooting during COVID and it was a time when everyone globally was grappling with grief, and also with isolation and the fear of leaving one’s home to interact again with the real world,” explains Gabriella.
“We hope that this film will bring support, comfort and closure to those who are experiencing feelings of grief and isolation,” she says.
Inspired by a South African great
In addition to being in Afrikaans, the film references renowned Afrikaans poet Ingrid Jonker — with specific reference to the poem Jy het my gesterf.
Explaining how they came to this text as a foundation for the film, Jordy explains that it happened by chance.
“Terrence and I were just looking for ideas, and when you’re working on the story, you kind of talk like your character quite a lot. We would be like okay, what would they be doing, what would they be reading, what kind of things would they be into? We did a vast search for the kind of poetry that our character might be reading and we stumbled upon the Ingrid Jonker poem. Just reading it and seeing the translation of that poem — it really just became an anchor for the entire film, because the whole film is really about this deep, deep loss that someone feels after losing someone who meant so much to them,” says Jordy.
“Also, just exploring a little bit more about Ingrid Jonker and delving deep into her life, she lived quite a complicated life. There was so much angst, dread and isolation, and this feeling of loneliness that she had in her own life. So much so that she actually landed up walking into the ocean at Three Anchor Bay and drowning herself. Her poem became an anchor to our story and paralleled what Magdaleen was really feeling and going through,” he explains.
Onwards and upwards
Following their success at Silwerskerm, Leemtes en Leegheid is on its way to the independent film festival Dances with Films 2022 in Los Angeles.
In addition, both Jordy and Gabriella have been chosen as Talents Durban participants. The project, hosted by Durban FilmMart Institute chooses a select group for a six-week mentorship experience with film professionals to further boost young film talent and provide a pathway for participants to present their films to an international market.
Leemtes en Leegheid is expected to be released on Showmax. All updates on viewings can be found at Sanktuary Films.
• Published in the PDF edition of the July 2022 issue – Click here to read it.
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