The feature Layla Fourie, a new South African co-production shot in Gauteng and directed by Berlin-based South African Pia Marais, will have its world premiere at the Main Competition of the upcoming Berlinale Berlin International Film Festival – making it only the second local film to be screened at this prestigious event.

layla A stiil from Layla Fourie.

The Berlin International Film Festival, now in its 63rd year, runs from 7 to 17 February in the German capital. A great cultural event and one of the most important dates for the international film industry, the Berlinale has some 300 000 sold tickets and almost 20 000 professional visitors from 130 countries, including about 4 000 journalists.

A South African, German, French and Dutch co-production, Layla Fourie was produced by an international team led by Germany's Pandora Film Produktion in partnership with South Africa’s Dv8 Films and Spier Films.

“This is an authentic story told by a South African filmmaker with a unique perspective,” says Jeremy Nathan, CEO of Dv8. “This is only the second South African film to be in Main Competition at Berlin, after U-Carmen eKhayelitsha. Spier is especially proud to have been involved in both films.” U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, a retelling of the classic opera Carmen set in the South African township of Khayelitsha, was awarded the Golden Bear at the 2005 Berlinale.

After her first two award-winning features The Unpolished (Die Unerzogenen) and At Ellen's Age (Im Alter von Ellen), director Marais returned to South Africa, the place of her childhood, to make Layla Fourie.

A suspense thriller, the film focuses on the title character Layla Fourie, a single mother who gets the chance of a proper job at a casino, running polygraph lie detector tests on potential employees. In an atmosphere of mistrust, lies and fear, Layla becomes a suspect in a murder that happens on her first day at work.

A web of lies and deception become wrapped around the young mother and her son and, as their trust is put to the test, it is a matter of time before the truth will tear them apart.

Layla Fourie is set in South Africa, a country that has gone through a complete upheaval since its transition to a democracy,” says Marais. “The very notion of existence in such a country is dramatic.

“Firstly, it is a film about a young single mother and her son. Yet their relationship and how it evolves throughout the story reflects a certain atmosphere that prevails in this country. One of hope and yet shadowed by distrust.

“We shot the film in more rural parts of South Africa, north of Durban, and in Johannesburg – a very cinematic city,” the director adds. “Obviously, South Africa went through a major change since my childhood there, so, for me, it is also a rediscovery.”

Layla Fourie features South African actors Terry Norton, Rapulana Seiphemo and is a debut for the young Rapule Hendricks. Also in the cast is August Diehl, who starred in Salt and Inglorious Basterds.

Layla Fourie

Director: Pia Marais

Screenplay: Horst Markgraf, Pia Marais

Cast: Rayna Campbell, August Diehl, Terry Norton, Rapulana Seiphemo and Rapule Hendricks

Producers: Claudia Steffen, Christoph Friedel (Pandora Film Produktion)

Co-Producers: Jeremy Nathan and Mike Auret, Tom Dercourt, Frans van Gestel

Production Companies: Pandora Film Produktion (Germany), in co-production with

  • Dv8 Films and Spier Films (South Africa)
  • Cinema Defacto (Paris, France)
  • Topkapi Film (Amsterdam, Holland)
  • WDR/Arte

With support from

  • Film-und Medienstiftung NRW,
  • German Federal Film Fund (DFFF),
  • Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg,
  • German Federal Film Board (FFA),
  • CNC (France)
  • The Netherlands Film Fund (Holland)
  • Eurimages (Europe)
  • Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) South Africa
  • MEDIA (Europe)