Phillip Altbeker, Business Day

With a career that spans more than 30 years, Darrell James Roodt, whose Little One will be released on Friday, must rank as South Africa’s most prolific filmmaker.

But it is not just the quantity of his movies – many of which have been made for overseas TV – that matters; it is, rather, his willingness to tackle the issues that have defined the past three decades, often in defiance of the governments of the time, that makes him an important figure in the local industry.

A Place for Weeping (1986), for example, dealt with a crime the police were more intent on covering up than they were on solving a murder with interracial implications.

Darrell James Roodt

  • Born in 1963, Roodt is a South African film director, screenwriter and producer
  • Little One was selected as the South African entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards but did not make the final shortlist.
  • His film Yesterday (2004) was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
  • One of his best known films is his adaptation of the anti-apartheid stage musical Sarafina!(1992), starring Whoopi Goldberg.
  • Has made over twenty features working with Oscar nominated actors such as James Earl Jones, Richard Harris and Melissa Leo.
  • Has won numerous awards at various festivals throughout the world, including a Humanitarian Award at the Venice Film Festival in 2004 and the Prime Minister’s Prize at the Taormina Film Festival in Italy for his outstanding contribution to English language cinema.

Source: Wikipedia

The Stick (1988) was an indigenous version of Oliver Stone’s Platoon; it followed a group of soldiers engaged in one of the Nationalists’ clandestine cross-border wars which, of course, did not exist officially and it so enraged the authorities that, if memory serves, it was banned here.

Sarafina! (1992) had as its subject the 1976 pupils’ revolt against Bantu Education while his Cry, the Beloved Country (1995), a remake of Alan Paton’s classic novel, was far better than the earlier British-made version. The script was by Ronald Harwood, the writer of the current Quartet, and its distinguished cast included James Earl Jones and Richard Harris as the fathers of sons whose lives have been overtaken by tragedies.

The more recent Yesterday was quietly yet effectively critical of the Mbeki administration’s weak response to the HIV/Aids crisis and showed that Roodt had not lost his social consciousness.

Not all of Roodt’s considerable output has been of the same awareness and standard: Stilte, for instance, was thoughtlessly shown to reviewers before it was finished and his Winnie, with Jennifer Hudson as Winnie Mandela (her name during her internal exile), not only incurred the wrath of its subject, it has also been fated to float in cinematic limbo because, it has been reported, it fails to live up to anyone’s expectations.

Now, proving that Roodt is still very much aware of social issues, especially the number of rapes, particularly and pertinently, of children, he has made Little One in which a six-year-old girl is violated, beaten and mutilated. She survives the terrible ordeal but is left scarred both mentally and physically.

The cops make no progress and the only person who really cares is Pauline (Lindiwe Ndlovu) who had rushed the victim to hospital and, in the spirit of ubuntu, she virtually adopts the unfortunate child.

The story is imperfect – young boys discover a clue the police were unable to find and an unusual weapon is too quickly identified – but it is told so movingly and without sensationalising its emotive resonances that it becomes heartrending and even required viewing.