Schalk Bezuidenhout talks singing and dancing in Kanarie
Cape Town - It was once said that comedians make great dramatic actors.
This statement was made to argue the point that comedy is harder to perform than drama. While no official answer has been found on the matter, there’s certainly been a fair amount of evidence to support this belief.
One local example further proving this point is comedian Schalk Bezuidenhout who plays the lead character Johan Niemand in Christiaan Olwagen’s latest film Kanarie.
Set in South Africa in 1985 against a backdrop of Apartheid, religion, and war, Kanarie follows a teen boy (Bezuidenhout) who has always been bullied in his small town for his flair for British new wave music and love of Boy George.
After he gets called on by the military and auditions for the Canaries (the South African Defence Force Church Choir and Concert Group), he believes the choir will be his ticket out of fighting the war, but he begins to see the role he plays in the oppression and injustice around him. On tour, he develops feelings for a fellow Canary and he starts to question everything he knows about himself, leading to a confrontation with his commanding officers.
The movie is an enthralling and captivating tale is not only about love, but also a film about finding individuality in a world of oppression and uniformity. This movie one of the best movies to come out of South Africa this year, and a large part of that has to do with Bezuidenhout’s performance.
He's become a household name in the few short years since he graduated from UCT, having won 2 Comic’s Choice Awards. His own weekly television talk-show, Die Ware Naarheid, recently debuted on kykNET, but it's in Kanarie where audiences will get to know a different side of Bezuidenhout and it’s a thrill to witness.
Niemand is an mild-mannered and earnest character, who loves Boy George and before you know it, you’re singing along to the songs like a canary. At the start of the movie, we're introduced to his character wearing a wedding dress, and the scene that plays out thereafter could easily have fallen flat, but Bezuidenhout brings a warmth and wit that gets carried throughout the film.
When asked how challenging it was it inhabiting such a character, the performer explained that it’s about as challenging as inhabiting any character.
“Convincing an audience that you are a different person is always a challenge, but we as actors love telling stories, so we always accept that challenge with open arms.
“I really identified with the character having struggled with bullying. I was also a victim of bullying in my young days.
“There hasn't been a story like this in Afrikaans. And there will always be prejudice until people experience or see something that make them think differently. I think this film can be that. There is no pressure for your mind or morals to be changed after watching it.
“If after this film there is even just a little bit less hate and prejudice in the country - and even in the world - then I will be happy.”
Kanarie is more of a film with music than an actual musical. When music is used in the film, it uses the musical trope of doing it to highlight the emotional state of a character. Bezuidenhout confirmed that he definitely found the musical aspects of the role daunting.
“The musical aspect of the film was definitely a challenge.
“I am not nearly as musically-inclined as Kanarie co-writer Charl-Johan Lingenfelder, whom I am basically playing. A lot of the character's musical genius in the story was due to movie magic. Please don't come up to me in the Wimpy after having seen the movie and ask me to sing.
“Were you daunted by the moments that you had to sing on camera?” I asked.
“Only when I went off key,” he replied.
The movie has a fair amount of choreography that Bezuidenhout had to pull off, and asked about the experience he answered:
“Well my dancing is about as good as my singing so the choreography was also a challenge. That is also a bit harder to cheat in post-production. Luckily the spirit of Billy Elliot entered me somewhere along the line and I managed to pull it off.
“I learnt so much working in this. Christiaan Olwagen is as much of a teacher and life coach as he is a director. I feel like I came out the other side a different person... in a good way.”
Bezuidenhout added that this movie is very necessary, and encouraged local audiences to go and see it.
“Just go enjoy it for what is it: a beautiful, necessary and important story.”
* Kanarie is out in local theatres this weekend.
Run time: 123 minutes
Kanarie stars: Schalk Bezuidenhout, Hannes Otto, Germandt Geldenhuys, Gerard Rudolf, Jacques Bessenger, Ludwig Binge, Francois Jacobs, De Klerk Oelofse, David Viviers & Andrico Goosen. The film was co-written by Christiaan Olwagen & Charl-Johan-Lingenfelder and produced by Marche Media.