Stroomop is the type of film that was made for such a time as this. A time where women are taking the lead not only in front of the camera but behind it too. A time where women’s thoughts about their body, relationships, careers and lives carry more value and weight. A time where women don’t need a man to resolve their problems or save them from themselves.
Stroomop is a film about five women all struggling to tread water in their individual daily lives. The film pulls focus on Lana, a surgeon, who is unable to do her job due to a previous trauma and forced to attend therapy. Here, she meets Adrie, Diona, Vivian and later Nixie, and soon they find themselves on the banks of the Orange River for ‘adventure therapy’. While river rafting down the river, the tensions between the women escalades, causing an accident where they are left stranded without the guide, Guy, or any sense of direction and very little supplies. The five women are left to their own devices and layers start to unravel giving a glimpse into their lives.
The storyline is incredibly strong. Except for a few holes in the reality of their survival, the struggles that these five women face are authentic and raw. They weren’t heightened or sugar coated for the sake of film. They were presented as they are in every day life – in all their still and awkward moments. Stroomop plays out like a therapy session. Little bits of information are given without any obvious links, and slowly, the audience starts to piece them together. There are beautiful silent moments, awkward encounters, and sparks of laughter. The pace is slow, but it uses the time to draw out all the ugliness before the healing can begin.
From the beginning, I could already predict the ending, but the ending is not important. What is important is all the little moments to get there. That’s where both the narrative and cast performances really stand out. A well known cast of women, Donnalee Roberts, Simone Nortmann, Chanelle de Jager, Carla Classen and Ilse Klink, all give consistent performances that are natural and etched into their bodies. The cinematography is plain and simple, and relies heavily on the beauty of the landscape as well as the performances of the actors. However, the wide shots open up the vast African terrain and the rocks and caves create interesting angles and lighting. The smooth flow of film is disrupted by the pockets of information that take you out of one location and into another.
Stroomop is a film that requires you to actively watch and lean in, and through this I found a piece of myself in every women. It’s the perfect film to watch with your ‘girl gang’ and laugh, cry and feel inspired. It’s also the perfect film to watch with your husband or boyfriend, with your brother or your father as it is a launch pad for conversation. Stroomop opens itself to a wide audience without harsh language or violence, and things are implied rather that explicitly shown. It also places itself in a flexible time and place, and speaks to universal themes that do not restrict this Afrikaans film to South Africa. Although the film lacks a bit of diversity among the women, the issues these women face go beyond the colour of their skin or background.
Stroomop opens in cinemas nationwide on 9 August, National Women’s Day (South Africa), and is such a perfecting fitting to empower, inspire and ban together women from all over.
Written by Ivan Botha, Donnalee Roberts and Sean Robert Daniels.
A film by Ivan Botha, with 17 Films, The Film Factory and Kyknet.