Karen Zoid’s debut feature film

Posted: September 9, 2010 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews


First published in The Callsheet, September2010.  http://www.thecallsheet.co.za

The Afrikaans film, Susanna van Biljon, to be released 23 September will star some of the biggest Afrikaans actors of our time, and a popular rock chick as the leading lady.  Karen Zoid will surprise a few of her hard-core fans with her debut feature film appearance.  The Franz Marx production also stars Nico Panagio (7de Laan, Celebrity survivor host) David Rees (Egoli) Shaleen Surtie-Richards (Fiela se Kind, Egoli) Anna Davel (Egoli), Wilna Snyman (7de Laan), Marie du Toit (who has more than 48 movies under her belt) and a host of other well-known Afrikaans actors.

Franz Marx, who has participated in 22 feature films and since switching to telev

Karen Zoid

Karen Zoid

ision in 1980 has written, produced or directed 13 series, is perhaps best known for his two smash hit productions,  Agter Elke Man, a prime-time series, and the daily television serial,  Egoli – Place of Gold.  For Susanna van Biljon, Marx again brings together some of the cast and crew that worked with him on Egoli.   Bromley Cawood (ipi Tombi, 1200 episodes of Egoli, and Egoli -the movie) directed Susanna van Biljon.  And, Christo Compion, who was a scriptwriter and eventually the headwriter for Egoli, was also the headwriter for Susanna

During 2009 Marx approached Karen Zoid with a proposal that she plays the lead role in Susanna.  

“I was in an art school and my specialist subject was drama,” says Zoid. “I am a performing artist and I have been waiting to do some acting.  I actually considered doing some stage work.  When Franz asked me to be Susanna it was not as if I was like, well maybe, but rather, Yes, Yes! Franz asked me if I can remember lines and I said, ‘yes’.  Then he said, ‘a lot of lines’.  I said, ‘sure’.  And off I went to the audition.” Zoid has released four studio albums, has won numerous awards including Best Female Artist, and has been named by The Sunday Times as one of the top six Rising Stars of South Africa in 2003.

Both Franz and Karen remain mum about who this mysterious Susanna van Biljon is, or was, and we can’t extract anything more from the distributers at Nu Metro either. All we do know is that Susanna van Biljon is a Susan Boyle-type of story that takes place in South Africa. Susanna is a 40-year old spinster that lives with her bitter and conservative mother, played by veteran Afrikaans actress Marie du Toit.  Susanna has big dreams of being a singer.   However, she doesn’t exactly look like your typical idol and she has to claw her way through her small town’s preconceived ideas of beauty and negative defeatist attitudes.  There is a fat suit for Zoid, as well as a dorky hairstyle, glasses, and a frumpy wardrobe that will render her virtually unrecognisable to her hordes of fans who know her as a cool rock chick.  Her appearance totters somewhere between Ugly Betty and a tamer version of Charlize Theron’s Monster

“A big part of this movie is about the relationship between mothers and daughters,” Zoid explains. “It’s kind of an Afrikaans chick flick but it’s not a dumb movie.  Susanna is all about having dreams, love, and family. It will appeal strongly to Afrikaans women but I suspect the men will be dragged along to the theatre with their partners.”

Filming started in March 2010 and took around 5 Weeks to complete. They filmed mostly in Johannesburg, Oudtshoorn, Uniondale, and Cullinan.   As to whether Zoid was a little intimidated to take the lead next to veteran actors such as Surtie-Richards, Snyman, and du Toit, she says, “Luckily I know Shaleen very well.  We’ve been in a few productions together, such as Supersterre, where we spent a lot of time getting to know each other and we bonded very well.  She is a phenomenal actress and a friend.  But working together with the woman that played my mom was a very special experience. Marie has featured in so many films and it was so interesting to hang out with her, and listen to her stories of how they used to make films back then.”

“The coolest thing about this movie was the camaraderie between us all.  I am used to a brilliant vibe with my band but this a bond that is formed between about 80 people, spending every moment together, its new and its great. I loved it.”

As a musician, Zoid was perhaps an obvious choice for the role of Susanna, however her music does not feature prominently on the soundtrack.  Zoid co-wrote the theme song with Sean Butler, which she also performs.  Butler has worked as a musician, arranger, musical director and record producer since completing his national diploma in light music at the Pretoria Technikon in 1996.   Zoid also sings a Johannes Kerkorrel song in the film.

“I hope that people will come and see the movie,” Zoid concludes. “Whenever something is created in South Africa it is important that it is supported as this in turn generates more work for everybody.  Zoid is releasing a new album in September this year.

Astrid Stark


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