Vaselinetjie, with Nicole Bond, Marguerite van Eeden, Shaleen Surtie-Richards, Royston Stoffels, Arno Greeff, Elzet Nel. Directed by Corne van Rooyen.
IT is good to be able to recommend a South African-made film as something worth seeing while it is on the big screen.
Vaselinetjie, based on the book by Anoeschka von Meck, is a story with a lot of heart, full of melancholy but also demonstrating what real love looks like. It is filmed in Afrikaans, with English subtitles.
A pregnant young woman stumbles through the veld, desperate and alone. We later surmise that she had her baby there and abandoned it. Eleven years later that little girl (Nicole Bond) is a pupil at a school in a coloured community, looking oddly out of place with her pale skin and straight hair. A solitary child with a sad face, she endures the teasing of her classmates.
But at home, she is loved by her adoptive parents, the elderly coloured couple who raised and nurtured her.
The school principal is however concerned about Vaselinetjie’s social circumstances and contacts the welfare department, who intervene and take the girl away from her “ouma” and “oupa” and place her in an orphanage where she is around more children who look like her.
The welfare officer who takes Vaselinetjie there offers only the stern admonition, “Don’t let me hear you’ve been a problem.” Not exactly the words of compassion a child who has been wrenched from her loved ones needs to hear.
There are also stern house mothers at the orphanage, and Vaselinetjie’s odd accent elicits more teasing at her new school. Asked her name by the teacher, she says, “Vaselinetjie”, to the laughter of her classmates. Asked for her full name, she says “Stukkie Vaselinetjie Bosman,” saying the names by which her loving ouma and oupa called her. She tells the teacher her name given at her christening is Helena, but no one calls her that.
But not all is bad in her new life. She finds a fast friend in “Killer” (Anchen du Plessis), and two other girls, all misfits in their own way. She also finds a compassionate ear in the form of her guidance councillor Mr Kedibone (David Mello).
Vaselinetjie grows up in the orphanage, and we later see her as a teenager (Marguerite van Eeden), going by the name Helena, getting into mischief with her friends and falling in love for the first time with the chivalrous but troubled “Texan” (Arno Greeff).
The story elicits emotion without the carefully constructed sentiment we often see in Hollywood films. It is real and ordinary and sad, and such is life.
The two young actresses who portray Vaselinetjie – Nicole Bond, and then Marguerite van Eeden – carry this this story so well.