By Darren Gilbert

How much did you know about Alison’s story before taking on the role?

To be honest, not a lot. At the time of Alison’s attack I was six-years-old, and given the graphic details of the story, it wasn’t exactly the type of thing my parents would discuss around the dinner table.

I remember hearing about it later in my teens. The conversations mainly revolved around the gory details of the attack and when it concluded with the fact that the girl actually survived, the response was usually something like: “No way! That’s insane! It can’t be.”

It was only when I got the call to audition for the film that I decided to read up on the story. Researching a story like this is horrifying, especialy if you only have old newspaper articles or blog posts at your disposal. At the same time, I also found it very inspiring because, like the conversations in my teens, this girl’s will to live trumped all the gruesome details surrounding the attack.

How did you prepare for the role of Theuns Kruger?

After I got the part, I had a sit down dinner with Uga [Carlini, director] and we discussed the story at length. By that time, she knew Alison and her story so well that she had some very interesting and different insights into the characters and events.

She also handed me a copy of Alison’s book I Have Life, which I started reading as soon as I got home. The book, although a tough read given the subject matter, gave me some important insight into how Alison perceived Theuns.

I also read the court transcripts from the actual case. It was great material, because like an actor, the court is there to seek out the truth: What happened? How did this happen? Why did it happen? It is that last question, the why, that I found fascinating. Trying to figure out why someone would do something like this.

It is the search for those truths that, in my books atleast, assist you in creating a rounded and believable character.

Was this the hardest role you’ve ever had to play in a film?

I don’t really think of my roles in terms of “hardest” or “easiest”. For me, it is more about the challenges that each role poses.

My biggest challenge in this particular process was creating a life for this character without using any words. Our scenes were shot in a “re-inactment” style, so the challenge here, was to use the little screen time we have, to say something about this person without saying anything.

Something that I’ll never forget is the night we shot the attack near Kommetjie. It was just myself, Christia [Visser] and Zak [Hendrikz] in a little yellow Renault and all we had to do was to drive the car into a wide shot. After the first take, they sent us back for another. Because it was a wide shot, we had to drive the car a couple of hundred metres down this narrow little tar road, hugged by sand dunes, and around a bend.

When we got around the bend, Zak had to try and turn the car around on this narrow road without getting stuck in the walls of sand that surrounded it. It was a huge struggle back and fourth and suddenly it grew quiet and tense inside the confined space of the car. It was at that exact moment that it all became very real to me.

The silence inside the car, the shaking and rattling of the little yellow Renault trying to free itself from the thick sand and the growing intensity of three people knowing what awaited them around the bend.

Those moments are the reason why I do what I do.

Was it easy to switch off after leaving the set?

This is where I’m reallly grateful for my training and the lecturers that I had at Stellenbosch University. For me, one of the most important things I learned in Drama school was discipline.

Antoinette Kellermann was one of my lecturers and she wouldn’t let you leave a rehearsal or a show with your make-up or costume on. At the time, it was a buzzkill because you wanted to show off your crazy make-up or outfit to your buddies. However, looking back at it, those little disciplines helped me to develop the tools to treat my workspace as something sacred that you deliberately step in and out of.

Are you proud of this film?

Haha. I think that is like asking a parent if he’s proud of his kid. But I am, I’m really proud to be a part of this truly inspiring and courageous story.

It was really comforting to have met my director one-on-one and discuss her vision for the film because sometimes you only meet the director on the day you arrive on set. I really appreciated the fact that Uga took the time to discuss not only my character, but the story as a whole and how she plans on telling it. Her passion for this project is remarkable.

Zak is one of the most energetic people that I’ve ever met. Such a great guy to work with, he is never afraid to “go there” and he takes you “there” with him.

Christia is just such a pro. I have a lot of respect for her as an actress. She works super hard, yet, her performances are effortless and lovely to watch.

As for the crew, the unsung heroes of every film, I have the utmost respect for the sensitive and considerate way in which they approached this film and its content.

Who should go see this film?

This is not necessarily the type of subject matter that one would discuss around a child and the film is quite graphic, so I would be careful to take anyone younger than 13 just yet.

This is a brave film about an incredibly brave woman who, on that night in December 1994, chose life.

Having met Alison for the first time about a month after the shoot, I realised something else: Alison didn't only choose life on that particular night, it is something she does every day. Truly inspirational.

Alison, the movie starts at Nu Metro Cinemas on Friday, 12 August.

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*Image courtesy of Anne Kruyer .