Not wanting to slate the film too much because of its origin, we have to accept if we’re going to compete with international markets we need to start producing films that meet international standards.
Leading Lady tells the story of British teacher and wannabe actress Jodi Rutherford (McGrath), who travels to South Africa to learn more about the culture. Her aim is to land the role of a Boer woman in her director boyfriend Daniel Taylor’s (Gil Bellows) new film, based on the life of war heroine Johanna Willemse.
In the Free State town of Brandfort she meets the gallant (by somewhat skewed standards) Afrikaans farmer Kobus (Bok van Blerk), who coincidentally happens to be a descendant of the Willemse family.
She convinces the family to prepare her for the role and teach her the Boer way of life and in exchange offers to direct the town’s local Christmas play.
There are times when the culture clash seems credible, but others when it feels grossly exaggerated.
As fate would have it, Jodi falls in love with Kobus. Singer Van Blerk is unfortunately not quite as adept at acting as he is at music. Jodi learns more than she anticipated and discovers there is more to life than “lights, camera, action”.
There seem to be many parallels to director Henk Pretorius’ previous film Fanie Fourie’s Lobola, which tells the story of an Afrikaans man who
falls for a Zulu woman, similarly tackling cultural differences.
The film has secured a US cinematic distribution deal after a successful run at the Seattle International Film Festival, but whether it will fare well on the mainstream international circuit is uncertain.
On a more positive note, the film stars Binnelanders’ Brümilda van Rensburg playing the mother figure Magdaleen Willemse – cheeky as hell. She is quirky, a little looney and altogether a “Boervrou”.
Despite its shortcomings, the film will be appreciated by locals, purely because it shares a uniquely South African story. While a step above the majority of local releases, it’s not quite brag material either.