Liefling, die Movie, opens at cinemas nationwide on 19 November. A love story in the tradition of spectacular musicals such as Moulin Rouge, Mamma Mia! and High School Musical, the film features an all-star cast and a soundtrack with 24 well known Afrikaans songs which have been expertly arranged and produced by musical director Johan Heystek.
Heystek paced up traditional songs like Afrikaners is Plesierig and Jan asb. tog squeeze my so that they appeal to both young and old. The visuals in the movie also bring the songs to life for a younger audience.
"The result is a fresh, fun and entertaining musical journey that incorporates a whole bunch of popular songs that have been re-arranged for a modern audience and are sung by a range of talented singers," says producer Linda Korsten.
The film, conceptualised by producer Paul Krüger, takes its name from the evergreen and much-loved Gé Korsten song Liefling, known to most South Africans as the Blue Bulls' theme song. "When Paul came up with the idea for the film, he was looking for Afrikaans favourites," says Korsten. "Because Gé Korsten was my father, I have all his music. When I suggested Liefling to Paul because of its enormous popularity, we immediately agreed that it was the perfect theme song for the film."
The song has an interesting history. During the 70s and 80s, when Gé Korsten was one of the country's most popular and respected singers, a representative of his record company Brigadiers heard the melody while he was at a meeting with a record company in London. He fell in love with it instantly and went to Germany to secure the rights. Brigadiers then asked Gé to sing the song, but with a far more vibey backing track than was his usual style. Liefling became an instant hit. "It's one of those songs you never tire of," says Korsten. "Since then it has been covered many times by other singers, including Steve Hofmeyr."
She says that one of the biggest challenges in making the film was the music itself. "To source the right music was a difficult and demanding task, but when Johan Heystek began with the arrangements, I knew we were on the right track. It was a wonderful experience to see how the songs and the singers became one as the actors put their voices to the new arrangements."
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Krüger began the process with a selection of 1 800 songs. "We then picked the most popular songs and hits from the 70s up to the present," he says. "They had to complement the script once it was finalised and add value to the story as a whole. We also had to make sure that we had a good mix of both poignant and happy songs. I think we have achieved a perfect mix. There is something for everyone – from Sonja Herholdt's Ek Verlang na Jou to Bobby van Jaarsveld's Spieëltjie and Kurt Darren's Kaptein.
The film tells the story of Liefling Marais (Lika Berning), an adventure loving young girl with a passion for life. She lives on a farm in Hartbeespoort with her father Simon (Alwyn Swart), mother Linda (Sonja Herholdt), grandfather Karel (Rouel Beukes), brother Kobus (Paul du Toit) and house keeper Katy (Clementine Mosimane). Simon is a professor at the university and in his class are three friends, Jan (Bobby van Jaarsveld), Pieter (Gert Wolmarans), and Gert (Willem Botha), who also live on the outskirts of the city in Hartbeespoort. It's the December holidays and Jan, a civil engineering student raised by his grandmother, has his eye on Liefling, but spoilt little rich girl Melanie (Marlee van der Merwe) has other plans up her sleeve. Fate intervenes and brings lovers, friends and enemies together in a sumptuous musical celebration that will have audiences laughing, crying and singing along.
Korsten says her personal favourites are Lied van die Lewe and Hoe ek Voel. "My dad wrote the lyrics for Lied van die Lewe. It has a lovely tune and so much wisdom to impart to young and old. In the film, Liefling's grandfather (Rouel Beukes) sings the song to her to tell her all about life. I get a lump in my throat every time I listen to it."
Both Korsten and Krüger are confident that the whole nation – not just Afrikaners and Afrikaans-speaking people, but all South Africans – will enjoy this uplifting musical. "The great Afrikaans oldies (and the more modern songs) are popular with South Africans from all walks of life and we want everyone to enjoy them and just have lots of fun."
Liefling Die Movie is being released by Indigenous Film Distribution in South-Africa.