Tag Archives: QA

Free State of Mind: Andrew Govender Discusses Acting, Tradition, and Religion

Free-State-Updated-PosterThis is the third and final installment of “Free State of Mind”, a series of Q&As with the cast and crew of a South African film currently making the rounds at film festivals. You can read my review here, find out more about its creation from producer Terwadkar Rajiv here, and get some insight on how co-lead Nicola Breytenbach’s prepared for her role here.

Today’s interview is with Andrew Govender, who plays Ravi, the other half of the couple at Free State‘s core. Another former model like his co-star, he began his career at just sixteen-years-old. Being crowned Mr. South Africa in 2012 is only one of his many achievements, which include creating the Andrew Govender Book Club with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and being involved in various awareness campaigns.

Given that their characters share a few interesting parallels Govender answers a number of the same questions that Breytenbach did, with a few that are unique to Ravi himself.

An arranged marriage is the biggest barrier that Ravi faces in his relationship with Jeanette. How would you say he views that tradition and what it means for his future?

I think he respects it and accepts it. He was brought up in a traditional Indian family and those are Indian traditions. However, when he gets to meet his arranged wife he realises that he doesn’t have much in common with her. That’s when he meets Jeanette and falls madly in love. He knows that he shouldn’t be pursuing a relationship with her because it’s illegal during that time for inter-racial relationships. However, he can’t help himself and that results in detrimental consequences.


Ravi makes it clear that he’s concerned about his sister’s safety, but what does he ultimately think about what his family does under cover of darkness?

He understands that they are doing it for a greater cause and he respects that. However, he does care deeply for them and doesn’t want anything to happen to them when they go on these missions. He’s close to his family and wants to protect them.

From what I can tell this is your first role in a feature film. How was that experience, especially with it being a South African production instead of a big Hollywood movie?

It was an incredible experience. I got the opportunity to work with some really talented South African actors. I learnt a lot by being on set and having these actors mentor me throughout the filming process.

Our director Sallas de Jager was also really supportive and helped me to give the best performance I could. Even though this was a South African film, the production standards on the movie were really high. That can be attested to with all the international awards that the movie has won. I really hope that I will have the opportunity to work on more films both in South Africa and Hollywood. Acting is really something that I enjoy immensely.

How much did you know about South Africa’s Immorality Acts before signing on to this film?

Not a lot. I grew up post Apartheid, so most of what I knew was from what I heard, not what I could have experienced. It was quite eyeopening to learn more about that time in South Africa’s history and how Indian people were treated. I gathered as much information as I could from my parents about their experiences during that time. I also was really fortunate that my acting teacher had been in an inter-racial relationship and she was able to help me understand my character better.


Religion plays a large part in Free State for both Ravi and Jeanette’s families. Did you come from a religious background, and did this have any affect on how you played the role?

Yes, I did. I grew up in a conservative traditional Indian family so religion was important to us. My character was also brought up with the same core values and so religion would have been important to him too. There’s a scene in the movie where my character meditates and also seeks relationship advice from a guru. So we are aware that he relies on religion to guide him in the choices that he makes.

Free State of Mind: Actress Nicola Breytenbach on Getting in Character

Free-State-Updated-PosterThis is the second installment of “Free State of Mind”, a series of Q&As with the cast and crew of a South African film currently making the rounds at film festivals. You can read my review here, and find out more about its creation from producer Terwadkar Rajiv here.

Today’s interview is with Nicola Breytenbach, who plays Jeanette, one of the two romantic leads. While she has spent the past several years as a successful model, with her career taking her to runways across the world, Free State marks the beginning of her acting career. Just last month The Blue Mauritius began filming in Montreal, with the US and German co-production being her second ever silver screen role.

Jeanette is first introduced returning home to her father after finishing law school. While it isn’t heavily covered in the film, what kind of impact do you think that education had on how she views life, especially after she meets with Ravi [co-lead and love interest]? 

As Jeanette went to Wits University, which was a more liberal university than many others, it would have changed the way she viewed and felt about apartheid and the immorality act. She pursued higher education as it was instilled upon her by Maria and her father, but her true desire was to be a wife and mother.

Jeanette was raised in the very small remote town of Memel and even though it was a Christian white community it was very sheltered, and as she says in the beginning of the film that’s why she was a real ‘political innocent’. She wasn’t exposed to the reality of it much, except for a few remote incidents which completely shocked her. As her mother also passed away at such a young age and her father had a difficult time reaching out to her because of his grief, she was raised almost solely by Maria who is black South African Zulu.

Hence when she met Ravi, she didn’t think about his race and it didn’t deter her from seeing a friendly man who went out of his way to help her in this traumatic incident of a near accident. She only saw his compassion and how selflessly he had helped her. As time goes on, they both come to the realize the severity of the situation they are in, as well as the fact that they are engaged to others, but at this point it is too late, they have already fallen in love. Continue reading

Free State of Mind: Behind the Scenes with Producer Terwadkar Rajiv

Free-State-Updated-PosterLast month I was offered the amazing opportunity to watch a screener of Free State, and published my review at the beginning of this one. Set in mid-70s South Africa the film revolves around an interracial relationship that would have been illegal due to anti-miscegenation laws of that time.

In addition to that I was also able to interview members of the cast and crew via email, with consequent installments of “Free State of Mind” being released in the following days. Up first is a Q&A with Terwadkar Rajiv, who produced the film alongside Piet De Jager and Sallas De Jager.

When many people think of South Africa and racism their minds immediately go to Nelson Mandela and apartheid. What do you think their reaction will be to Free State, which focuses on relations between White people and South Asians, instead of Black people?

Apartheid was one of the dark patches of South Africa, no doubt about that! When South Africa got independence and Nelson Mandela became the President most of the people were thinking – what will be the future of South Africa? Will whites be kicked out of the country? The way things happened clearly shows that all ethnic groups started living towards one nation, South Africa!

Although there are stories during Apartheid where Indians and blacks were tortured, beaten up or even killed by the Police or Army; some whites used to treat Indians & Blacks respectfully! There are so many stories from Apartheid which prove that inter-racial relationships and friendships existed before 1994.

­Free State is a film which focuses on the relationship between Jeanette (Afrikaans White Girl) and Ravi (Handsome Indian man). This also beautifully shows the motherly relationship between Zulu maid Maria and Jeanette, who she raised as her own daughter, ­­making it truly cross cultural and crossing ethnic boundaries. Continue reading

Shame Day: Video Game Companies

eaeaI am a dude who loves video games. I’ve played so much Team Fortress 2 in the past few weeks that it’s essentially become a ritual for me, something to do while and after I eat dinner. What I don’t always love are the business practices these  companies  engage in.

The image I Photoshop’d together depicts the EA [Electronic Arts] logo because they’re a company that I’m positive some of the blame lies with when it comes to generally being horrible to its employees.

I was turned onto this flagrant abuse of humanity through a webcomic Scott Kurtz [of PvP] and Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins [of Penny Arcade] put together. The comic, titled The Trenches, follows the life of a QA [quality assurance] guy whose name escapes me at the moment. The important part is that below the comic is a feature called Tales From The Trenches, which catalogues nightmare stories from those who toil within in the industry.

Below is one of my favourites, entitled “Weekend Funtimes.” My favourite not in that I enjoy reading it, but in that it encapsulates some of the horror of working  for large corporations:

We were about two months into “crunch” when they decided to up our hours AGAIN, taking us to over 80/week. The only available day to squeeze these extra hours in? Sunday!

I arrive at the building Sunday morning, only to find it locked—no other businesses had Sunday hours. I call my supervisor, who proceeds to fuss at me about interrupting his “family” time. My team had all arrived for work by that point, which just seemed to make him angrier. He tells me he is on his way and hangs up.

Flash forward ten minutes. We’re all still freezing (it was winter and -10 windchill) when we see his car come around the corner at the end of the block. He drives up the road, rolls his window down, and THROWS the office key at me—all without ever slowing down.

He calls me twenty minutes later to make sure we had gotten in, then informed me we would have to make up the time we had “wasted” waiting on him. He ended the call telling me to never interrupt his family time again.

That’s fairly despicable, and definitely up there among the worst of them. It was posted last month, and while it’s unknown when the event actually happened there is a date we can pinpoint: November 10th, 2004. The date that “EA: The Human Story” was posted to LiveJournal by user “EA Spouse.”

The post is a thorough examination of EA’s policies, especially regarding the infamous “crunch time” that its employees have to go through as the game nears its impending launch. She writes with a genuine, heartfelt voice that stems from being the wife of an EA employee. This is definitely present in the penultimate paragraph of her piece:

If I could get EA CEO Larry Probst on the phone, there are a few things I would ask him. “What’s your salary?” would be merely a point of curiosity. The main thing I want to know is, Larry: you do realize what you’re doing to your people, right? And you do realize that they ARE people, with physical limits, emotional lives, and families, right? Voices and talents and senses of humor and all that? That when you keep our husbands and wives and children in the office for ninety hours a week, sending them home exhausted and numb and frustrated with their lives, it’s not just them you’re hurting, but everyone around them, everyone who loves them? When you make your profit calculations and your cost analyses, you know that a great measure of that cost is being paid in raw human dignity, right?

Better known by her blogging handle, little did Erin Hoffman know what sort of action her post would lead to. In part it resulted in the filing of three class action lawsuits against EA and the beginning of many changes within the industry. Her post inspired another entitled “Why Crunch Modes Doesn’t Work: Six Lessons” which garnered a fair amount of attention within the online community.

That being said, Tales From The Trenches continues on into 2013, and it’s undeniable that many are slaving away in gaming companies because they love the final product. Their devotion to video games means that they’re stuck in jobs where they’re treated poorly by anyone and everyone a rung above them on the corporate ladder. Yes, this can be said of many work environments, but few have the same number of young, eager individuals so passionate to take part in what they’ve enjoyed their entire lives.

So shame on EA, and shame on any and all video game companies that treat their employees like dirt. No one said starting a career was easy, but no one should have to toil away thanklessly for an abusive system, either.