Orania is not for sissies!

May 21, 2013

By Pete Ford

Director Tobias Lindner brought his fascinating documentary Orania to a packed Frontline Club on Monday 20 May.

Tobias LindnerDescribed as “a remote village in the barren centre of South Africa – an ‘intentional community’ where only white Afrikans people live”, Orania is relatively unknown globally. But Lindner, a German who has spent long enough in the country to be fluent in Afrikaans, explained that “in South Africa, it is inevitable that you will hear about the place.”

Shot over a three month period in 2011, the film offers an intimate look into the lives of Afrikaners who have chosen to group together into what they call a ‘nation-state: a conservative, Christian farming community with the overriding aim of preserving Afrikaner culture. In Orania, self-reliance and hard work are given an almost religious importance, yet the film highlights the struggles of the community to attract –and keep – new residents. Lindner commented that it is “remarkable how many people come and then leave. [They] expect a Boer Disneyland.”

As ever, the post-screening question and answer session provided some excellent discussion. Questions focused on Orania’s ties with Eugène Terre’Blanche’s separatist AWB (“no official links”); support for apartheid (“many look back fondly”); the masculine nature of Orania (“men are in charge”); and the focus of education at the two schools (“not enough to allow the kids to interact in the world.”)

When asked if Orania will still exist in ten years, Lindner answered:

“It is hard for me to say if they will be there in the future. They have a stubbornness about them that lets me think they could be there a long time . . . which does not say they will grow.”

This lack of growth was brought home when Lindner was asked about how the protagonists are doing now, two years after the film was shot. Three have moved away and two have died, he said.  Of the leavers, the character he calls the main protagonist: a troubled, young “gangster” from Johannesburg, was kicked out during filming. Carel Boshoff, Orania’s founder and another central character in the documentary, died in March 2011.

Mention in the film of the idiom about good fences making good neighbours, prompted the question:

“With the rich Afrikaners building gated communities, is Orania for the poor ones?”

Lindner‘s reply: “It’s strange to see a community so fenced-in in their minds, but not really fenced-in in reality” was a fitting summary of Orania; an idyllic, peaceful, rural setting, inhabited by people intentionally distancing themselves from the modern South Africa, the ‘Rainbow Nation’. As Boshoff mentioned in the film:

“Give people their own territory and they live at peace with their neighbours.”

Given the record of violence against white farmers in the country, Orania has seemingly achieved this in its 22 years of existence.

Orania has screened at film festivals around the world, is currently shown in independent cinema’s throughout South Africa, and will be cinematically released in Germany. There are no further screenings scheduled at the moment, but you can stay up to date through the film’s facebook page or website.

You can listen to the Q&A and watch the trailer below.

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