“Donkerland” Historical TV Drama



DONKERLAND is a 13 hour drama series that was shot during March, April, May and June 2013 and broadcast weekly on kykNET in 13 episodes of an hour each during July, August, September and October 2013. The series is based on the multiple award-winning play of the same name written by South Africa’s Afrikaans playwright, Deon Opperman.

The narrative of Donkerland plays out over a period of 158 years, from 1838 to 1996. Against the backdrop of the changing socio-political landscape of the country, Donkerland follows the trials and tribulations of six generations of a family of settlers and the family of Black workers on the farm Donkerland in the district of Weenen, KwaZulu-Natal – from the first founding of the farm all the way to 1996.

The complex play of relationships between members of the family over the generations as well as between the family and the Black workers on the farm is the central focus of this drama series.

When first produced for stage in 1997, Donkerland was hailed as a milestone in South African literature, particularly for its revisionist view of Afrikaner history. No punches are pulled in this frank and honest portrayal of Afrikaner history. As the critic of Rapport at the time, Barrie Hough put it:

“This drama, which borders on greatness, is a collective truth commission, a catharsis for an Afrikaans audience….The inhumanity of the Afrikaner towards his fellow man has seldom, if ever, been presented in such a shocking manner on the Afrikaans stage. What is so disturbing is that Opperman manages to portray these people in such a way that you also care about them.”

Thanks to my Fellow #instagrammers @adambentel & @quentinkrog who where also the DOP and 1st AD of the show!

donkerland black

During the 13 week Donkerland shoot Kyknet commissioned the behind the scenes in order to capture the process we went through. Donkerland episode 1 starts in the year 1838 and the final episode 13 in 1996. This is an epic tale with immense scope and I am really chuffed that these behind the scenes videos exist, even just as a reminder of the journey.

All of the videos are in Afrikaans, except when DOP Adam Bentel talks. I hope to put subtitles on at some point and upload in my own capacity HD versions.

EPK Art Department and Make-up. Lots of english in this one.

EPK Actors

EPK Post Production

EPK Production


Media24 has recently started to build Apps for tablets and found out about Donkerland. Seeing the great potential to reach an audience through a drama series they approached us to build a app for the show.

I was particularly excited about this as it takes the story to a new level . When making a film or television show of this scope a lot of work goes into research and development and is usually archived afterwards. Now it has a home. The App shows you script excerpts, behind the scenes, interviews, photographs and various other pieces of media that was created but had no place in the actual show.

The exercise showed us however how unfamiliar South African audiences are to this medium and what their expectations really are. Not only audiences but also show makers and producers. We where on a panel at a festival talking about Donkerland and new media and there was serious opposition to actually using an app to market your product.

Ultimately I was a little disheartened by the lack of enthusiasm from industry and audience about new and interesting methods of distribution and platform exhibition and I feel, again, that after the fact, after the whole world has changed, then only will the people we work for and make shows for accept that the new world had arrived.

Donkerland D

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s