Comedian, writer and satirist-in-chief Pieter-Dirk Uys is a true South African icon. Almost everyone knows who he is and what he's done. He has contributed greatly to South Africa's collective pop psyche and funny bone.
A new documentary, Nobody's Died Laughing, celebrates the life of Pieter-Dirk Uys and his career, which expands over 50 years in performance. The film, which debuted at the Durban International Film Festival (Diff) at the end of June, is set for a nationwide theatrical release on 29 July 2016.
Directed by Willem Oelofsen, the film features interviews with friends, family and well known South Africans in arts and politics, all reminiscing about their favourite Uys moments. Interviewees include singers David Kramer and Zolani Mahola of Freshlyground; actresses Charlize Theron and Janet Suzman; and others such as former president FW de Klerk, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela's former private secretary Zelda la Grange. Italian actress Sophia Loren - one of Uys' childhood idols - makes a special appearance to talk about their lifelong friendship.
The film also covers campaigns he is passionate about such as his travelling Aids-awareness entertainment programme, which he performed to over 1.5-million people across South Africa.
The film looks at the over 100 performances around the world, with particular attention on his apartheid-era satire. He took his anti-establishment message to forefront of the country's dark political landscape while making all South Africans laugh at themselves. Uys is the only entertainer to win South Africa's prestigious Truth and Reconciliation Award. During his long career, Uys has enjoyed audiences with political figures such as former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pik Botha, former president Thabo Mbeki and Mandela too.
He has also formed long friendships with fellow social justice warriors such as U2's frontman Bono, Mandela's widow Graça Machel and the late Hollywood actress, Elizabeth Taylor. "This film captures a man and a lifetime commitment to a country by using satire to affect change," Oelofsen told News24. The film also goes beyond Pieter-Dirk Uys the performer. It gets to know the man himself and what he thinks about a life spent in the limelight, drawing the ire of politicians and doing his best to change the world for the better.
"I found it fascinating that after 50 years in the entertainment industry he was still working at the same pace and with the same vigour as when he started," Oelofsen said, "I believe audiences will be intrigued to experience more about the man who refuses to be silenced while using the arts as his weapon against discrimination and confronting intolerance." Popular online film critic duo, simply known as The Critics, call the film "an incredible South African experience". They recommend it as compulsory viewing for every South African. Watch their full review
Durban film critic Fred Felton calls the film "deeply thought provoking, emotional, very funny." Watch a discussion between Uys and Oelofsen, recorded during Diff 2016.