Meet the ’Plain’s new local stars

Pictured is Willem Arendse, founder of WA Film Production House, directs Huis sonder Jesus. Pictured with him are actors, from left, are Chanté Arendse, from Eastridge; Simone Hazell, from Tafelsig, TommyCornay Swartz, from Heinz Park; and Mark Jeneker, from Lentegeur.

A Mitchell’s Plain cast went from inexperience to starring in a locally produced film, which premiered at Portland Indoor Sports Centre on Sunday November 5.

The 90-minute movie Huis sonder Jesus, with a cast of 35, many of whom are from Mitchell’s Plain, was completed over the past three months.

Willem Arendse, from Heinz Park, started Willem Arendse Film Production House about four years ago but in June he called on aspiring Mitchell’s Plain actors to attend weekly workshops at Town Centre library.

Here the unemployed, housewives and future stars met to be trained in drama, stage and film acting, and empowered with skills for stardom.

“The main focus was to produce films but also to do charity, giving back to the community and giving them an opportunity to perform,” he said.

Mr Arendse took out a loan to buy a camera and put the latest production together.

Mr Arendse was so overwhelmed by the commitment cast members showed, including lead actress Heather Laguma, who braved bullets in Manenberg to attend rehearsals.

He said the movie was for everyone who had lost hope.

The movie centres on a family, who has lost its way, with a drunken father, gangster son, an irresponsible young single mother of two children, and a daughter whose faith never falters.

Chanté Arendse, 24, from Eastridge, said she had always dreamed of being an actress.

She plays the character of Brenda, a single mother who faces the possibility of losing her children, aged seven and four.

“I never thought it possible, coming from Mitchell’s Plain that I would be on the big screen,” she said.

Ms Arendse said she enjoyed playing her character because she related to being a mother.

“They (her children) can’t believe it. They are very excited and want to follow in their mother’s footsteps. They want to be in front of the camera,” she said.

Ms Arendse said before joining the production house she had been down and out and prayed for a life-changing opportunity.

“Being part of the cast has changed my life,” she said.

Tommy-Cornay Swarts, 28, from Heinz Park, who plays the role of the gangster son, said he learned to be positive, more confident and met new friends.

The film crew does not have a designated make-up artist or costume designer and many of them take on extra responsibilities when on set.

“We’ve become a family,” said Simone Hazell, 26, from Tafelsig, who narrates the story.

“If you’re a drama queen you can do anything,” she joked.

Mark Jeneker, from Lentegeur, who plays the role of the drunk father, said: “I know what it is to be really drunk.”

“This movie is about me, where I have come from, I’m living this movie,” he said.

And he just wants to give of his best.

Mr Jenneker, who now volunteers at Town Centre library and works at Yellowwood Primary School, was previously a drug merchant and gangster.

Five years ago he found the Lord.

Zulpha Morris, founder of Heaven’s Shelter, in Woodlands, who plays the role of a social worker in the film, said the workshops kept the youth off the streets and busy with something productive.

“It gives them hope, keeps them busy and it gives them opportunities. The movie looks into the heart of the community and it is our way of giving back,” she said.

Ms Morris said when the destitute arrive at the shelter they have no hope but now after attending some of the workshops some clients want to be actors.

“They feel empowered, excited and exotic,” she said.

Movie director Pastor Abel Thornton, from Heinz Park, who learned drama at school and worked at the Baxter Theatre, said when they started three months ago, they only had a script.

“We had a nil, only the script and we hosted auditions, which many people attended – good, lazy and willing actors,” he said.

“This is a movie of passion, which we do out of our pockets. We have seen people develop from no acting experience to where they are today – in a movie,” he said.

The movie Huis sonder Jesus will be showing at the Heaven’s Shelter, corner of Orion and Orpheus Crescent in Old Woodlands, at 3pm, on Saturday November 11. Tickets cost R30.

For more information, call or text Ms Morris on 072 437 4325.