First published in Sunday Independent, March 2012
Elizabeth first made eye contact with Akon through the porthole of his spacecraft. Selene, her white Arabian mare and constant companion, stood valiantly on the hill in front of the hovering ship. The propulsion forced the long dry grass down and up, like seamless waves against the soil. Elizabeth stared unflinchingly into the wide-set and magnetic eyes of the man whom she had been searching for all her life.
When she saw him again his spacecraft was nestled in the hollow of the mountain on the family farm in Natal. Akon stood before her, his tall lean body clad in a silver suit, and his long silver grey hair caressed his strong shoulders. He stretched out his arms, and Elizabeth ran to him. “This time you are not afraid of me”, he said.
It sounds a bit like Mills and Boon meet 2001: Space Odyssey, but for Elizabeth – respected meteorologist, environmentalist, pilot, wife, and mother – it is the story of her life. Elizabeth was born in Natal in 1910 as the descendent of a long line of professionals and musicians. She wrote her non-fiction autobiography, Beyond the light barrier, which documented her love affair with the spaceman Akon, and their son Ayling which she left behind on planet Meton, where father and son lives. Her biography also contains detailed information of UFO sightings, her experience on Meton, scientific papers, and a very strong environmental message from beyond the stars.
Beyond the light barrier, has been met with scepticism and enthusiasm – depends on who you’re talking to. In 1973 her research papers were presented at the General Assembly of the United Nations. Two years later she was given a place of honour as guest speaker at the 11th International Congress of the UFO research group in Wiesbaden which included 22 leading scientists from around the world. Here she received a standing ovation. Yet, back home it took a long time to get her autobiography printed as publishers declared it science fiction. She refused.
Elizabeth’s story has been the object of fascination for filmmaker Uga Carlini since the story first broke in the Huisgenoot. Uga was 8-years old. Today, after countless patient negotiations, Uga received the rights to Elizabeth’s story from David Klarer, Elizabeth’s son from her second husband. Production of Good planets are hard to find – the documentary is in full swing. Uga’s production company, Towerkop Creations will then start working on the full feature film Beyond the light barrier and prominent Hollywood producers are eagerly awaiting Uga’s script.
“As a kid I had big plans to visit Meton after my mom read me Elizabeth’s story,” Uga recalls. “Now, my fascination is not with the planet anymore but rather with this incredibly brave woman whose love story of interstellar romance spanned space, time and credibility. It is also a bona fide mystery story, sprinkled with verifiable facts, close associations with top brass military personnel, vanishings and claimed government protection programs. She could even fly planes in between raising children, tending to the planet, and sharing advanced scientific knowledge from international podiums!”
The documentary focuses on Elizabeth the environmentalist, ‘and her foresight and knowledge that is alarmingly accurate and prophetic to this day’, Uga explains.
Uga, who received her degree in acting and directing at Stellenbosch University, recalls some of the sites where they have already started filming the documentary, “We shot scenes in the Peninsula and Hermanus, venturing to the Northern Cape, Johannesburg and Natal Midlands. I loved it, the people, the hospitality, and the genuine Ubuntu wherever we went.”
Uga reminisces on filming in Chernobyl, “Drinking radio-active vodka, the threat of wild wolves, tour guides with knives and guns that probably shoot vodka bullets, temperatures plummeting to minus 8 with the sun shining and certain areas still so radioactive it’s life-threatening to even drive past.”
“I loved the romantic and beautiful hills of Cortona in Italy. Here I went, rebel without her crew, due to budget constraints.
The Parlotones will be providing the documentary’s soundtrack. How did she get this super popular group on board? “I just asked them,” Uga says. “I felt that without them realising it, many of their songs had parallels with Elizabeth’s story and journey. I am also a huge fan of their music and environmental work and felt it was a great fit.”
The promo of ‘Good Planets’ was recently one of 500 shorts chosen out of 7000 international entries for the prestigious InterFilm Berlin shorts competition in Germany. It also screened during March at the Cape Winelands Film Festival.
Uga wanted to make movies, and be in movies, for as long as she can remember. “When I hit 14, being the last kid in my school to get a VHS player, I very quickly made up for the lost time,” She recalls. “I watched every single video available to rent at our local video store. My sister got to see classics like Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and The Shining at the ripe old age of 8.”
Uga lives in Fish Hoek with her husband and a menagerie of pets including one cat from Australia and two from Fiji, tortoises, fish, birds, and Rocky the Boxer who is the canine inspiration behind a radio play that she recently completed.
“Towerkop is the original name of our house,” she explains. “The name can be seen hand carved into a piece of granite in the 70 year old rock wall against the foot of the beautiful Brakkloof Mountain behind us. When I researched the history of the house, I found the reason why it was called ‘Towerkop’ was because an underground river runs through it, making the soil extremely fertile. I also discovered that previous owners and oldies from the area could remember how one could often hear beautiful singing coming from under the Milkwood tree – no human anywhere in sight. Even though I haven’t heard the singing yet, my heart hasn’t stopped singing since I moved in and Towerkop Creations, my production company was born.”
Uga’s house is reminiscent of the magical Owl House in Nieu Bethesda. Large sculptured mermaids and owls live all along the walls and in her garden. She clearly believes in the magic and the mystery of people and objects. She is a fierce supporter of environmental and human rights. She publicly handed Cape Town Major Patricia de Lille an enormous pink envelope with testimonials from people who lost loved ones, or were injured, by reckless drivers along the dangerous Kommetjie road, which passes in front of her house.
She was voted as Extraordinary Woman of March by Xtraordinary Women, a platform that leads, inspires, supports and recognises women entrepreneurs in South Africa. Uga is just not the type to sit back and wait for opportunity to come knocking.
Uga ‘s hard work and perseverance paid off in double dividends when she received the rights to create a documentary and feature film about Alison Botha’s life story as written in her best-selling book, I have Life.
Alison’s well-know story recounts her horrific real-life ordeal which took place in December 1994. She was abducted, raped, her throat slit 16 times, disembowelled by being stabbed over 30 times in the abdomen, and left for dead. However she cradled her intestines in a shirt and crawled 90 metres to the road where she was rescued.
Uga’s documentary on Alison is called Second Chances and its central theme considers that ‘not all second chances are created equal’. Alison used her second chance to inspire others. Her attackers, who were out on bail for rape at the time, utilised their second chance by raping again and trying to murder Alison. Seventeen years after her attack, Alison’s story has once again made headlines with news from the Department of Correctional Services that her attackers, together with 5000 other hardened and extremely dangerous criminals are suddenly being considered for parole.
Alison’s story really grabbed Uga, “For me, this is the most miraculous and inspirational story ever. And it is South African,” she explains. “Think about it, the book is still on the Penguin best seller’s list, since 1998, and has been translated into 7 different languages. This incredible lady should not be alive. Doctors still can’t believe that she is and not only is she, she’s been changing lives around her for the better ever since.”
“Alison is my sister from another mother,” Says Uga, “And a long lost friend I never knew I had. She is just such an incredible honey to work with and a match made in heaven for a business partner.”
In 2011, The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) sent Uga to The American Film Market (AFM) in Santa Monica where she presented both her projects which were very well received. She is currently in negotiations with several major Oscar award-winning producers who have taken a keen interest in her work.
“As one attends film festivals and film marts world wide, one really starts getting a sense, that as filmmakers, we really are equal in some of the challenges we face,” Uga explains. “An Oscar win doesn’t necessarily guarantee the funding to come in overnight for the next project and you are only as good as your last project. The work never stops and often filmmakers forget that its movie business after all. The business side is as important as the creative side and the one cannot stand or function without the other.”
Uga’s mission is to keep making female driven heroine films that inspire and entertain. “To eat more chocolate,” she smiles, “Have lots more animals, green our house completely, raise children to whom environmentalism is not a term but a given and to make my investors so happy with their returns that they start phoning me . And to make the kind of movies for you that make you come back for more every time.