Movie Interview: Long Street

Posted: December 9, 2010 in Movie & Book reviews

Long Street family drama for Revel Fox.

A love affair with Cape Town’s Long Street, a young woman’s tumble into the world of sex and drugs, and redemption through music lies at the heart of Revel Fox’s latest movie.   

For Revel, directing Long Street was a very personal experience as he watched his wife and daughter re-enact a part of their tender family history.  In real life, Revel’s daughter, Sannie, had immersed herself into a world of drugs and in the process nearly destroyed herself.  “Our family went through some very bad times in the past, says Revel. “I was frightened. I wanted us to be well as a family. My daughter was very young, but she seemed unreachable.”  Gradually Sannie took responsibility for her actions and started focussing on her acting and music.  Revel recalls the moment when he realised he wanted to capture their collective experience on film. “One day I saw Sannie coming up the street. She stopped when she saw a duck which had escaped through a fence and was walking into the road. My daughter picked up a stick and gently ushered the duck to safety.”  Revel recalls feelings of relief and joy when he considered the potential humans have to do great things and to better themselves.

In the film Sia, Sannie Fox, struggles with drugs.  Her mother, played by her real life mother, Roberta Fox, is fighting her own personal demons from the past and a struggling singing career.  Sia’s father is struck down with writer’s block.  The family unit has all but dissolved until a musician, Busi Mhlongo, and the love for their respective art forms, reconnects them. 

The film, which took three years to make, stars Sannie Fox (StringCaesar), Roberta Fox (theatre’s Green Man Flashing), musician Busi Mhlongo, David Butler (Cop Land, Operation Delta Force 3: Clear Target), and George Jackos (Diana: A Tribute to the People’s Princess), among others.

Working with his family was both stimulating and challenging.  “We’ve had some practice at this so we managed it carefully with many lessons learned previously,” says Revel. “We kept apart from each other, all of us, as much as possible. The working process was stimulating and came out of me having complete faith in the actors. I saw my role as to being as unobtrusive as possible and to give them the space to do their work.”

Dialogue is used sparingly in the film.   Instead, arresting Cape Town imagery such as the afternoon sun trapped behind a smoky waterfall of clouds cascading over the top of Table Mountain, and a silent Long Street at the break of dawn, features prominently.   Says Revel on his choice of location, “Long Street is the spine of Cape Town. It is where people hang out. It is where musicians rehearse and perform. In the film, Long Street stands for Cape Town too.  I enjoyed blurring the lines between the film and Cape Town itself. Cape Town is the star.  The only thing I could not convey is the smell of fish when the northwester blew. It was a surprise to film at seven in the morning when the street was slowly waking up. This is when we could have Sia walk up the middle of the road. This is when pigeons and seagulls could wander on the street and the only sounds you could hear were shopkeepers unlocking their doors and lifting their shutters and blinds.

The music of Sannie Fox and her band, Busi Mhlongo, Steve Dyer and Leslie Javan creates an ambience which at times comes across as a gritty and dirty, fusion of real life drama and fiction.

The core team consists of Florian Schattauer, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Revel and produced the film, and Jyoti Mistry of Shadowy Meadows production. “We were lucky to have contributions from private investors such as Heather Sonn and Ketso Gordhan, says Revel. “And there was also help from The National Lottery fund, Mannheim Film Festival and the Cape Film Commission.”

Revel Fox is best known to South Africans as the director of the award-winning film about a young trapeze artist, The Flyer.   In conclusion Revel says, “The Russian director, Andrey Tarkovsky, makes a film like Mirror and it is an act of faith. He speaks of spirituality, his own family, Russian history – our place in the world. I wish my film could be looked at in this way, because I am interested in what lies outside the story itself. My film looks at how each action resonates in all those around us. It looks at how a family falls apart and tries to come back together, the role of music. An addict helps a duck back to safety. A mother cannot sing. A father struggles to remove a rusty pole from the ground. An addict daughter becomes the mother figure when her own mother falls. A woman finds the courage to open her dead father’s violin case. I wanted these ideas to unravel like a piece of music. I have tried to let the story open up layers of ideas.”

The film has been released in South African cinemas and it will be released on DVD at the end of December 2010.  Revel says he’s hoping to continue with rehab and community screenings.   He is currently busy writing a romantic thriller about a detective, a girl, and a stalker.” I’m enjoying this because it carries no personal baggage.”

Astrid Stark

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