Liefling tells the story of Liefling Marais (Lika Berning), an adventure-loving girl who meets Jan (Bobby van Jaarsveld) and falls madly in love. The scheming Melanie (Marlee van der Merwe) on the other hand will do anything to have Jan for herself.

Andy Stead

The 21st-century resurgence of both Afrikaans music and film in South Africa, a reflection of a new generation untouched by apartheid, is sweetly summed up in the charming new movie Liefling, the first feature-length Afrikaans musical produced in 30 years.

Directed by multitalented actor, writer, artist, designer and director Brian Webber, Liefling is a simple feel-good love story using famous evergreen Afrikaans songs from the 1970s up to the latest hits of today. It was filmed in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Hartebeespoort and Lucerne, Switzerland.

Liefling is the first Afrikaans musical to hit the big screen since FC Hamman’s Sing vir die Harlekyn came out almost 30 years ago. That movie starred Afrikaans music’s sweetheart Sonja Herholdt alongside André Swiegers, with the music created by the legendary Anton Goosen.

Herholdt stars again in Liefling, this time as the mother of Liefling Marais (Lika Berning), the adventure-loving girl who meets Jan (Bobby van Jaarsveld) and falls madly in love. The scheming Melanie (Marlee van der Merwe) on the other hand will do anything to have Jan for herself ...

The story is told through song and dance, and a total of 24 well-known Afrikaans songs are spring-cleaned and presented in a fresh and exciting way to tell the tale of Liefling Marais and the people in her world.

Liefling was produced by Paul Kruger and Linda Korsten, the daughter of the late Afrikaans music icon Ge Korsten, whose 1970s hit song gave the film its name.

View the official Liefling trailer:

But producing the first Afrikaans musical in 30 years took some hard thinking and new lessons.

“By what criterion does one measure what makes a good musical film?” asks Webber. “And on top of that, an Afrikaans musical film? To top that, the first one in thirty odd years ...What are the ingredients?

“There was very little advice or expertise to be sourced in South Africa” he says, “a country to which the musical film genre is something of an enigma.

“After gathering some inspiration and tips and by watching and studying American musical movies, oldies and some of the many ones made recently, I looked inwards and to those in my close proximity ... my family and friends: good, solid Afrikaners, some ‘baster rooinekke’ and a few Jewish, Hungarian, Irish and Austrian pals who cherish a complicity with the Afrikaner sensibility.

What would they like to see and hear – but mostly... what would my mother like to see?”

Once he had established his audience’s taste, Webber and his creative team ploughed through a wealth of Afrikaans popular songs from 1970 to today.

“When the songs were all measured, weighed and finally chosen, we weaved a storyline in and around these songs that best told the story of our happy-go-lucky central character Liefling.

It was a joy to capture her gentle and light spirit and her journey of falling in love and eventually settling into her self and womanhood. Actress Lika Berning brought real down-to-earth wholesomeness and sparkle to the character.”

This use of song to drive the plot have led some to call Liefling the Afrikaans Mama Mia, the hit musical starring Meryl Streep that weaves classic Abba songs into the storyline.

“My greatest joy was working with an enormous cast (immensely daunting at first) of remarkably unique and talented actors,” Webber says.

“It was wonderful to watch them give it their all under pressured time constraints, intense weather conditions, dealing with challenging costumes and props and at the same time having to sing and dance like there’s no tomorrow! They did brilliantly. Steering the ship that is Liefling was very stressful for me but at the same time I have never laughed so much on a set! I was moved by the pure energy and daily drive of a committed team to tell our humble feel-good story in the best way we possibly could”.

Liefling shot for a week and a half in November 2009, one day in December 2009 and for just under two and a half months from January 2010 until early March 2010.

The movie was shot on a Red One camera with Pro prime lenses, HD format to DPX and then blown up to film with surround 5.1 Dolby sound. Pot production was handles by Hartiwood studios in Hartebeespoort, and Sound Mastering studios with Bernie Becker mastering, in Pasadena, Los Angeles.

The Dolby print master was completed at The Dub Stage in Burbank, California. Post production was completed early September 2010 and the movie will be released on 19 November 2010.

“It was not easy to shoot a huge musical with a large cast over the short period we had at our disposal,” says Webber. “Daily scheduling also proved frustrating and truly challenging.

“Filming a combination of dialogue and song and dance scenes on a grand scale over a very short and concentrated time span was utterly exhausting and frightening, but we rose to the occasion and everything worked out very well. I hope Liefling provides audiences with fun, escapism, glamour, nostalgia and a renewed intrigue with the Afrikaans language, spoken or sung.”