More often than not, true stories are infinitely more interesting and continue to resonate now. In Johannesburg-based filmmaker Charlie Vundla’s “Frontier Mistress,” which he describes as a Western set in 18th century South Africa, the story of a Huguenot refugee and her struggle against an abusive husband and an oppressive, racist regime, continues to reverberate today.
“It’s a timely film that deals with issues of gender and racial equality at a moment where the struggle for both of these has taken on a greater urgency,” Vundla told Variety. “And, yes, while this film does address socio-political issues I don’t want them to overwhelm the film; This will be above all else an exciting narrative that is character-driven and puts the story first,” he asserted.
“Frontier Mistress” participates in the Frontières Co-production Market, organized by the Fantasia International Film Festival in collaboration with Cannes’ Marché du Film.
Vundla and his team have already lined up a number of meetings with potential partners. “We are looking at locking in a company(s) that will join us in securing quality international talent, production funding and sales,” said Vundla who adds that they have already secured funding from the National Film & Video Foundation of South Africa and are eligible for a variety of South African funding instruments including the government’s Department of Trade & Industry Rebate scheme.
According to the Berlinale Talents alum, the story about a young French protestant who fled religious persecution in Europe to face even more injustice in South Africa, was published as part of a historical anthology book titled “Murderers, Miscreants and Mutineers” by Nigel Penn and he bases his film on the chapter titled “The Master, The Mistress & The Slave.”
“I was immediately drawn to the lead character Maria Mouton, a 16-year-old Huguenot refugee sold off like livestock by her father into a foreign world on the South African frontier,” he said.
“She finds herself living in such an oppressive situation kept down by both an abusive husband and a colonial system that defines a woman’s role very narrowly. But this young woman refuses the status quo and attempts to live her truth, with a slave that she falls in love with,” he continued, adding: “All of this happens on the 18th century South African frontier, a landscape which hasn’t been shown adequately in film.”
“As someone who believes in the power of cinema to both entertain and introduce people to new, authentic worlds, I was hooked from the get-go,” he said.
Mfundi Vundla – creator of the popular primetime series “Generations” and youth drama series “Backstage,” and Marche Media’s Jaco Smit (“Road to Your Heart & Forever”) – serve as producers.