Year: 2003
USA: Strand Releasing
Cast: Rouxnet Brown, Neil Sandilands, Shaun Smyth, Kristen Thomson, Tessa Jubber, Terry Norton, Adrienne Pearce, Grant Swanby, Brett Goldin, AJ van der Merwe, Deon Lotz, Jeroen Kranenburg, Andre Samuels, Johan Jacobs, Katrina Kaffer, Kwanda Malunga, Illias Moseko, Andre Lindveldt, Peter van Heerden, Jane Rademeyer, Andre Odendaal, Lola Dollimore, Robin Smith, Colin le Roux, Andre Rousseau, Edwin Angless
Directors: John Greyson, Jack Lewis
Countries: Canada / South Africa
Language: English / Africaans / Nama (English subtitles)
USA: 97 mins
USA Release Date: 30 July 2004 (Limited Release - New York and San Francisco)
US Distributor


In 1725, a young Khoi herder Claas Blank is sentenced to hard labour on Robben Island, Cape Town's penal colony. The prison garden is run by Virgil Tyne, an English botanist who is naming and cultivating South African protea species for the European market. Tyne is entranced by the quick-witted Blank, and the youth soon finds ways to manipulate the repressed botanist, exchanging native lore for guilders and favours.

Blank works alongside a Dutch sailor, Rijkhaart Jacobsz, who is serving time for sodomy. Despite mutual prejudices, the two prisoners are strongly attracted to each other and begin a tentative affair, accidentally witnessed by Tyne. Their affair transgresses vast cultural taboos, and unleashes confused feelings of desire and jealousy that neither have a name for. Tyne returns to Amsterdam, but he and Blank obsess about each other long-distance, constructing fantasies about each others lives from the few scraps they've gleaned.

A decade passes, and the prison authorities continue to ignore the ongoing 'friendship' of Blank and Jacobsz. Then Tyne returns to the Cape, fleeing a sodomy scandal in Amsterdam, where 70 men (including his partner Ourens) were tried and garrotted in the city square. His return is catastrophic, inadvertently triggering the arrest of Blank and Jacobsz on sodomy charges. Tyne makes a desperate intervention to the court, intent on saving Blank, but the herder refuses to play along. For the first time in his life, Blank tells the truth -- for the first time he names his feelings for the Dutch sailor.

Based on a true story.