Tributes pour in for film-maker

The late John W Fredericks. Picture: David Ritchie

Strandfontein author, scriptwriter and film-maker John Fredericks passed away at his home on Sunday July 7.

He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January this year.

Mr Fredericks, 73, shot to fame in 2016 with his acclaimed movie Noem My Skollie, which was based on his life. His memoir, Skollie: One Man’s Struggle to Survive by Telling Stories, followed in 2017.

The movie – and his memoir – relayed how he and his friends had formed a gang and at 17, he was arrested for robbery and sentenced to two years at Pollsmoor Prison. There Mr Fredericks used storytelling to help his fellow inmates pass time, after prison gangs tried to initiate him into joining a gang, in 1964.

Mr Fredericks’ movie received international recognition and was a South African entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Award of the 89th Annual Academy Awards in 2016.

His daughter, Janine de Villiers, 40, said her father was inspirational.

“He was a motivator, a hero and a legend.”

His other daughter, Melanie Boltman, 46, from Grassy Park described her dad as their very own superhero.

“He was the kind of father who read stories to us and made us understand the true meaning of loving and cherishing each other.

“He was present in our lives, he knew how he felt, he said he looked deep down into our souls.

“When Noem My Skollie hit the big screens and impacted so many lives, we were proud and honoured.”

She said her father worked with youngsters at risk of falling victim to crime and criminal activity.

“He made a difference in their lives and in the community,” she said.

Mr Fredericks grew up in Kewtown, Athlone. His father was a dirt collector and they lived near the dump site. His mother worked in a butchery.

Mr Fredericks spent most of his young life at the dump site looking for books to read and decided to become a writer at an early age, said Ms De Villiers.

“Thank you to all who reached out, called, texted and supported us. Thank you for the kind words.”

There were outpourings of grief on social media, from people near and far.

Actress, Jill Levenberg said on Facebook: “What a legend you were, what an inspiration. Thank you for choosing the road less travelled and pursuing your dreams. Thank you for choosing to share your stories with all of us and for trying to make a difference in this world.

“Thank you for being a hero, a legend. My life is forever changed because of you. Thank you for all you taught me Uncle John. Rus sag tot ons weer ontmoet.”

Austin Rose, one of the actors who played Mr Fredericks in Noem my Skollie wrote on Facebook: “Rest In Peace Sir John W. Fredericks. What an honour and privilege it was to have known you and share pinnacle moments and vivid memories. Uncle John, rest in peace for now. I thank our Creator for your story and for your life. You will always be cherished and remembered. Young Ones, till the end.”

A model, neighbour and mentee of Mr Fredericks, Anthony Walters, 22, from Strandfontein (“Anthony succeeds against all odds”, Plainsman, April 11 2018) said Mr Fredericks would often give him advice on life.

“He always told me what to do and how to do things, always told me I would get through things. He was my greatest mentor and friend.”

MEC for Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais, said she first met “Uncle John” at the Noem My Skollie Premiere at the Kyknet Silwerskermfees in 2016, where they applauded him for sharing his honest account of his journey.

“The lived experiences shared in the blockbuster required the courage and brave conviction not many are emotionally able to introspectively engage on,” she said.

“He did not shy away from his past, regardless of its painful nature and how he used his traumatic experiences as determination to empower the younger generation with writing, storytelling, drama and publishing skills,” she said.

In October 2018, Ms Marais and Mr Fredericks launched the MCM Drama and Writing School’s hanne innie lig, voete oppie grond publication in Paarl.

“The now published youth were personally groomed by Mr Fredericks and are now aspiring authors with the potential of rising above their circumstances and in turn uplifting their communities by addressing previously hidden narratives and raising awareness on the once untold community stories,” Ms Marais said

Mr Fredericks leaves behind his wife, Una Fredericks, 70, and his five remaining children — Eugene Fredericks, 53, from Heideveld; Sonia Soloman, 49, from Goodwood; Ms Boltman; Ms De Villiers and youngest son, Quinton Fredericks, 35, from Observatory.

His son Clint Fredericks passed away on Mr Fredericks’ birthday, October 7, in 2012.

“My father was the best father anyone could ask for. I am honoured to have shared him with the world,” said Ms De Villiers.

Mr Fredericks’ funeral will take place on Saturday July 13 at 9.30am at Amazing Grace Ministries, 24 Kitchener Street, Parow. The committal will be at Gloria Memorial in Schaapkraal.