South African musical creates a 1950s fantasy
In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 part of the film set of the Afrikaans musical film "Pretville" is photographed from above in Hartebeespoort, South Africa. The movie indulges in rock'n roll, vintage cars, greasers in sneakers, pin curl hairstyles and swing dresses , lots of pastel pink and blue, and double-thick strawberry milkshakes with extra cream. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)
HARTBEESPOORT, South Africa (AP) — Do you remember your first kiss? If you have a few years under your belt, maybe you stole it in the back of the movie theater, the projector whirring in the darkness. Or rather, back of the "bioscope," a word for the cinema in South Africa in the old days.
The fantasy world of "Pretville," a Grease-style film musical in the Afrikaans language, celebrates 1950s Americana, the thrill of first love and foot-tapping classics that evoke innocence and discovery.
It is also an affirmation of an Afrikaner identity that spent years in the doghouse after 1994 elections and the end of apartheid, the system of white minority rule imposed by Afrikaner nationalists in 1948. And while most of the actors are white, two who are not play authority figures, lampooning the now-discarded racial order.
The musical, its creators stress, is joyful escapism, not a whitewashing of South Africa's tortured history of race relations. As co-producer Paul Kruger noted, "pret" means "fun" in Afrikaans. The movie indulges in rock 'n' roll, vintage cars, greasers in sneakers, pin curl hairstyles and swing dresses, lots of pastel pink and blue, and double thick strawberry milkshakes with extra cream.
In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 an old Zephyr car with fake fur covered dashboard, seats and roof, is displayed on the film set turned theme park, of the Afrikaans musical film "Pretville" in Hartebeespoort, South Africa. The movie indulges in rock'n roll, vintage cars, greasers in sneakers, pin curl hairstyles and swing dresses, lots of pastel pink and blue, and double-thick strawberry milkshakes with extra cream. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)
"I think we've been excluded in that whole journey during the '50s in South Africa," Kruger said. He added with understatement: "We were busy with too many other things, too many other politics kept us busy."
The plot is about a farm boy and a town slicker who vie for a beauty's affection, with assorted side-sagas and a generous sprinkling of flamboyant characters: an aging crooner called Eddie Elektriek who courts an old flame, a candy storeowner with an eye for the guys, a hairdresser-cum-mayor with a goatee and a pompadour, a stutterer in horn-rimmed glasses and a pregnancy that fuels fevered gossip.
The feel-good film borrows from Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and West Side Story. But it's a whole lotta shakin' with an Afrikaner stamp. For example, the song "Is Jy Myne" (Are You Mine) is loosely based on "My Boy Lollipop," and "Skud, Skop en Hop" (Shake, Rattle and Roll) echoes "Great Balls of Fire."
"It's taking something old, putting something new," composer Machiel Roets said of pairing Afrikaans with vintage vibes. "Voila! A new recipe."