Johnny is Nie Dood Nie

‘Johnny is Nie Dood Nie’ is the name of a song written by Koos Kombuis as a tribute to fellow musician Johannes Kerkorrel who committed suicide in 2002. It is now also the name of a South African film by Christiaan Olwagen which releases in cinemas on 5 May 2017.

The story focuses on five friends who were involved in the Voëlvry movement of the 1980s, and shows what has become of them 20-odd years later. Johnny (Roelof Storm) commits suicide, an event which is stylised in the film, and the other four (Rolanda Marais, Albert Pretorius, Ilana Cilliers and Ludwig Binge) struggle to process what has happened. Voëlvry was an anti-apartheid Afrikaans-rock-music movement, fuelled, if the film is anything to go by, by drugs, alcohol and academic ideologies. Although radical for its time, the Voëlvry campaign in Johnny is Nie Dood Nie is portrayed as an insular one, characterised by frustration and hopelessness. This is emphasised by the present-day aspects of the story that show the characters still boozing and drugging, still railing against injustices, but without having achieved very much. This futility is underscored by references to the Border War of the 1980s, a war which modern-day South Africa looks upon as shameful and racist, and a faded waste of young lives.

The new South Africa the Voëlvry supporters hoped for in Johnny is Nie Dood Nie does not deliver, featuring high walls and ongoing racial prejudice. The filming in the present section of the film is dizzying to say the least. Perhaps this was done to show the characters ‘going around in hopeless circles’, I’m not sure, but I found it irritating. The story is really about the characters, not the music itself, so fans of Afrikaans rock will be disappointed from that point of view. The very last scene of the film casts a ray of hope over what has come before but is completely disjointed from the rest and so is hard to reconcile.

Johnny is Nie Dood Nie is very well acted and the local setting is realistic. But it’s a dark, sad and rather futile narrative that I think will appeal to a limited audience only.

Random Kak2 promises fun reminiscence of South African childhood

Living, loving, learning and laughing in South Africa

Random Kak2 has been recently released in South Africa, following the best selling book, Random Kak. Photo supplied by Penguin.

Random Kak2 has been recently released in South Africa, following the best selling book, Random Kak. Photo supplied by Penguin.

A review by Brenda Daniels

Random Kak² by Trevor Romain is a funny, happy, heart-warming account of the author’s life in South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s. Written and illustrated in comic-book style the book is visually appealing and easy to read.

Romain translates a host of typical South African sayings like poep scared, boney, and dwaal, and then uses them at length when retelling childhood incidents.

He reminisces on food favourites like Marmite and Jungle Oats, television programmes like Flinkdink and Pop Shop, and bioscope flicks such as Kramer vs Kramer and Grease.

His stories of failed romances and school escapades are amusing. And I particularly enjoyed the tale of how the biggest rugby star in his school, Shane Carty, came to Trevor’s rescue.

Mentions of the author’s “fearless”, rugby-watching, caring dad are especially touching. All in all Random Kak² is a delightful, amusing and enjoyable read. Go Trevor Romain – thank you for reminding me about my own Joburg 1970s, 1980s childhood!

Random Kak² is published by Penguin.