13 October 2016

South Africa: A Skollie Good Show - Meet John W. Fredericks, the Man Who Sold Words for Safety

Photo: Noem My Skollie
Noem My Skollie.

In a week when South Africans might rightly want to stick their heads in an ice bucket in an attempt to wake from the nightmare, one good news story is worth following: shortly after his 71st birthday, local screenwriter John W. Fredericks is still going from strength to strength. If you haven't yet seen Noem My Skollie, nominated as South Africa's official selection for Best Foreign Language Film in the 89th Academy Awards, do it before you miss out. MARELISE VAN DER MERWE spoke to the remarkable man behind the movie, based on his life story.

By now you know the story: Wees waaksaam, his mother says to him. Jy't 'n calling. Watch yourself. You have a calling. He doesn't watch himself well enough. He joins a gang - leads one, actually, from a young age. Gets caught as a teenager, goes to an adult prison. It's late in the day, but he remembers the second part of his mother's warning, and by some miracle, that calling - as a writer - saves him in the two years he serves behind bars. He peddles the one service he has to give: words. He writes letters, tells stories. By the skin...

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