Interview, Magazin

Charles Badenhorst on his short »What about the law«

Charles Badenhorst: »It has always been my favourite poem by Mr Small. In some sense it was the Romeo and Juliet poem about forbidden love in apartheid South Africa.«

Charles Badenhorst’ short WHAT ABOUT THE LAW  is winner of the jury award of the 1st Weimar Poetry Film Prize and our FILM OF THE MONTH JUNE 2016. Charles kindly answered some questions via E-mail. 

Poetryfilmkanal: How did you come across the poems of Adam Small?

Badenhorst: I have ever since I can remember been a great admirer of Adam Small and his poetry. I was born in the early 70’s in South Africa so I grew up in the old, pre 1994 apartheid South Africa. Adam’s work was a window into what was really going on in our country at that time. Adam was very brave. I received one of his poetry books as a present when I was still young and he taught me a lot and made everything a lot clearer for my young mind at that time. I would say he played a major role in how my political thinking developed.

What did you find particularly interesting about the poem WHAT ABOUT THE LAW?

It has always been my favourite poem by Mr Small. In some sense it was the Romeo and Juliet poem about forbidden love in apartheid South Africa, a real sad life situation, but only more so.  I have always been a hopeless romantic. But this is also tragic, and tragic is what South Africa was under apartheid. There isn’t enough sad words to describe how devastating life in South Africa was for non whites during apartheid.

How did you develop the visual ideas for this animated short film?

I wanted the film to almost be a reaction to the poem. First the poem happened, then the film. So the film could not be without the poem, if the poem didn’t play over the radio on that day and didn’t find the listener in that state it would never have happened, like a moment lost, something that could have been, like the love between Martin and Diana. Like the person in the film heard the poem for the first time and had a reaction on the listener. It is such heavy material and it should be taken in, it changes everything, also the mood. I wanted to communicate the weight of the narrative in a way it would affect anybody if they could feel or understand it.

Is this your first poetry film?

Yes, although I am a seasoned animator and have made many low budget underground Afrikaans music videos for my own music under the name of Bittervrug. This was the first commissioned poetry film I made and I was really lucky to be able to do one of my favourite poems. Artists in South Africa don’t really get financial backup to make films for poetry, so I was lucky to be part of an initiative of the ATKV (Afrikaanse Taal en Kuns Vereniging) where they gave 12 artists a little money and the opportunity to work on films for poetry.

You have quite a long experience in the field of animation. Can you tell us a bit about your background as an animator?

After school I studied construction management. I was working in the construction industry and I was totally unhappy with my career choice. Everything I hated about the negative part of South Africa was prevalent in that industry at that time.  I quit my job and started to study sound engineering and sound design as I was writing a lot of music at the time also. One thing led to another and I started Fopspeen Moving Pictures with my friend Diek Grobler. We have been going for over 10 years now.

How important do you consider the sound-design?

I think sound design plays a major role, you can create a whole new or other narrative to the one on the screen. You can bring subtle moments to the viewers attention. The list of positives are long, a well designed soundtrack makes all the difference.

The jury of the Weimar Poetry Film Prize was intrigued by the way you integrated the subtitles into the visual image. How did you come across this solution?

When I heard that my film would receive subtitles I wasn’t to pleased about it, but it made sense to add them because the poem would not be accessible to everyone without them. My partner Diek did the subtitles and I’m happy that it worked with the momentum and rhythm of the voice over and visuals.

Have you been in touch with Adam Small while working on the film? Did he give you feedback, was it a collaboration work or did he have any influence on he outcome?

I did not communicate with Mr Small during the production of this film, he did not have any influence over the film apart from his masterly voice over. I must say, after I received his voice over my whole concept changed into what it became. The recording was made over the phone so I got a very thin compressed voice over. This was actually a problem and the only way I could make it work in any context was to put it on a radio. In the end I made it work to the advantage of the film and I think it came out very well.

Which film are you influenced by? Any films based on a poem that you find remarkable?

I am a Student of many many great film makers, but I would have to say I am influenced by the work of Yuriy Norshteyn and I was lucky enough to meet him on a boat in the Ukraine a few years back.

Can you tell us what you like about the relation between poetry and animation or tell us why you think animation is the appropriate form for this film?

I think poetry and animation are the two perfect art-forms to combine. A poet writes poems, and then people read his poems and each person who reads the poem are moved in a different way. Everybody takes something else or feels something different. If you make a movie about a poem you have the opportunity to visually capture one of those emotions. If you are lucky it resonates with the people who then watch the film. It is a beautiful and unique opportunity.

About the artist
portrait-charlesCharles Badenhorst, born in 1972 in Pretoria, South Africa, studied Construction Management and Sound Engineering. In 1999 he started doing sound design and sound production for animation. He has recorded and released 2 Solo Albums. In 2004 he started Fopspeen Moving Pictures with Diek Grobler. Since then he has been very busy with direction, animation and sound for several television productions and independent films.

Mehr zum Thema
Diek Grobler: What about the voice?
Film des Monats Juni 2016: What about the law
Die Gewinner des 1. Weimarer Poetryfilmpreises