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I, Afrikaner is an intimate family saga, following four generations of South African Boers as they grapple with their identity as white farmers in a post-Apartheid South Africa, where land ownership is highly contentious and violence and racism are endemic. Filmmaker Annalet ‘Makkie’ Steenkamp’s challenging and intimate portrait of her family examines their unbreakable bond with the land what this means in the face of a new socio-political order.
Apartheid may be over, but racism has left deep scars in South African society: blacks and whites live largely segregated lives, and the farmers – who still constitute the propertied and employing classes – experience a growth of violent murders, which threaten their way of life and force them to face up to the precarious ideals on which their identity is built:
Following several incidents of violence, Steenkamp’s grandmother flees the family farm, choosing to live separately from the love of her life, a bare footed farmer who has lived on the same farm his whole 80 years. Her mother sleeps with an automatic weapon next to her bed, and her father locks himself into the house, which he has turned into a fortress. Her sister-in-law is ambivalent about the future of Afrikaans farmers in the region, but despite her fears she begins to follow in the footsteps of her forefathers. Shanel, her niece, born after the end of Apartheid is a child of democracy. She is friends with farm workers, visits their houses and speaks their language. Her optimism, however, is tested as violence moves ever closer.
The many sides of this story are visible in content as well as form, with Steenkamp alternating carefully framed shots of the South African landscape with footage of her family’s home life. The film shows what is rarely shown: the hinterland beyond the cities where interconnected lives are reshaped by sporadic violence that spreads fear and distrust, where hope is brief but powerful.