In a little less than a month South African audiences will finally get to see Krotoa, the multi-award winning film about a bright young girl who is removed from her Khoi San tribe to serve Jan van Riebeeck in the early days of the first Fort. Playing the role of van Riebeeck's wife Maria, is actress Roeline Daneel. In this interview with Marelise Jacobs, Roeline talks about she approached the role and what is was like working with female director Roberta Durrant.
Please tell us about how you got involved with Krotoa's production?
Roeline: I was on holiday with my father and (then) boyfriend in Zambia when I got the e-mail from my agent inviting me to audition for Krotoa. I was immediately excited – in fact, so excited that I pitched up a week early to the audition! Somewhere the correct date got lost in translation. But it was actually great, because it meant I was REALLY prepared when I eventually went to the actual audition slot.
Your character seems a rather cold hearted woman, please tell us about your approach to portraying Maria?
Roeline: Obviously as an actor it is your responsibility to explore all aspects of your character, even if the scenes in which she appears only show a certain side of her. I think very few people think they are villains themselves, and I don’t think Maria was horrid in all or even most aspects. The little research that I found of her showed that she was quite the hostess, diplomat and musician. But she is also a product of her time and a very European woman at a very basic trading post in its early years. I imagine it must have held many frustrations for her. And this is not her story, but Krotoa’s story and what Maria represented for her.
“...But she is also a product of her time and a very European woman at a very basic trading post in its early years. I imagine it must have held many frustrations for her...” - Roeline Daneel about her role as Maria in the film Krotoa.
The film tells a story that not many people are familiar with, how did you first feel when discovering the historical facts surrounding Krotoa?
Roeline: I had heard of Krotoa before, but not in great detail. She was an amazing woman during an extraordinary era. I find that in her story there is a glimmer of how relationships between Europeans and indigenous peoples could have played out. There was potential for mutual respect and learning. But the pendulum swayed in the wrong direction. For her and for all of us.
There were many strong women involved in the production, both in front and behind the camera. What was your experience like on set and being involved in such a project?
Roeline: I had never worked with director Roberta Durrant before and was thrilled at the opportunity. A female director brings a different energy. I felt that there was a lot of opportunity to discuss motivations and other issues with her – something that often gets neglected after the initial discussion stage in the face of time constraints and technical issues. There were also a few amazingly dynamic women in the production team and they organised the entire, gigantic organism that is a feature film shoot with grace and without breaking a sweat.