Frank OppermanThe decline in church attendance is a global phenomenon. The role of the priest in our rapidly changing world is one of the themes that lies at the heart of Dominee Tienie, a new film starring acclaimed actor Frank Opperman, who reprises on the big screen the role he played on stage in the one-man play of the same name, written by Dana Snyman.

The film tells the story of a priest who needs to win back his confidence if he is to again become the light he once was for everyone around him. After 16 years of serving as the priest of the mother church, Tienie Benade is faced with a steep decline in the number of congregants and a modern society that is rapidly changing. Is he brave enough to provide guidance to his congregation in this new era?

“The idea of an Afrikaans priest coming to the realisation that he has lost his way and doesn’t know where he fits within this modern society, immediately fascinated me,” says director and co-writer Sallas de Jager. “It has been a privilege to tread on proverbial holy ground. This is how I feel about adapting one of the most successful plays, written by one of the most beloved Afrikaans writers, Dana Snyman, for the big screen.”

Do clergymen still have a role to play in this world, asks Tienie? Does the church? He is trying his best to adapt and make sense of the changes, but in the process, he is alienating his wife and children. After an incident with a dying vagrant, Dominee Tienie finds himself at a crossroads. Will he be able to regain his self-confidence and win back the love of his family, and is he brave enough to provide guidance to his congregation in this new era?

“The film explores a topic that is close to the hearts of many South Africans,” says Helen Kuun, MD of Indigenous Film Distribution. “Keeping the faithful in a world where people consult other professionals for their problems highlights the dilemmas of the modern priest. Where once the pastor was the first person people turned to, today they can consult psychologists, psychiatrists, marriage counsellors, physicians and more. These are the factors that lead Dominee Tienie to question the relevance of his calling. It’s the type of role that is perfectly suited to an actor of the calibre of Frank Opperman.”

Henrietta Gryffenberg and Frank Opperman. Photo credit Courtesy of Indigenous Film Distribution

Dominee Tienie also explores the inner world of a man who is battling to get to grips with changing times while he confronts his own mid-life crisis. For Opperman, the role adds to the list of memorable alter egos for which he has become famous: from the eager-to-please Ouboet in Orkney Snork Nie, and the scheming Chris Karedes in The Big Time, to Koos Andries Koekemoer in Gauteng-a-Leng.

The film is directed by Sallas de Jager (Free State, Stuur Groete aan Mannetjies Roux, Musiek vir die Agtergrond) who wrote the screenplay based on Snyman’s play. The cast also features Henriëtta Gryffenberg (Die Sonkring, Erfsondes, Malunde, Karate Kallie), Thapelo Mokoena (Fear Factor, Wild at Heart, Long Walk to Freedom), Regardt van den Bergh (Tornado and the Kalahari Horse Whisperer, Uitvlucht, Faith Like Potatoes), Deon Lotz (Skoonheid, Sleepers Wake, Faan se Trein), Paul Eilers (Verraaiers, Stuur groete aan Mannetjies Roux, Musiek vir die Agtergrond), (The Salvation, Blood Drive, Roots), and Annette Engelbrecht (Orkney Snork Nie, Geraamtes in die Kas, Elke Skewe Pot).

“The film will both entertain and challenge audiences,” says De Jager. “It will certainly afford them the opportunity to experience some of South Africa’s leading actors and technicians at their very best.”

Dominee Tienie is distributed by Indigenous Film Distribution and releases nationally on 25 January 2019.


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