Drama - Pre-Production 2019

Adopted into a white apartheid era family in South Africa, and then cast aside into the servant’s quarters by the woman she considered her mother, Agaat fights to forge an identity not defined by her skin colour.

    • Year of production
    • 2019
    • Genres
    • Drama, Historical
    • Countries
    • Languages
    • Budget
    • 5 - 10 M$
    • Duration
    • 120 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Oliver SCHMITZ
    • Writer(s)
    • Liane GILLETT, Patrick HOLZEN
    • Producer(s)
    • Synopsis
    • 1996: Milla who is in the terminal stages of motor neuron disease, condemned to silence is only able to communicate through eye movements. Her black “maidservant”, Agaat nurses her with a mixture of infinite tenderness, sadistic precision and a desperate and passionate undertone of anger about the past as well as sadness at the anticipated loss of her “mistress”.

      Through the reading of Milla’s detailed diaries, Agaat takes her back to the 1950s when life in South Africa for white farmers like Milla was full of promise. Milla has inherited her Grandmother’s farm, Grootmoedersdrift, and at 22 has married what appears to be the perfect man - Jak De Wet. However, it quickly transpires that Jak is an emotionally impotent, narcissistic wife batterer, a weak, vain and reckless man who trades on his extremely attractive looks. He gains popularity through a nondescript acquiescence to the ruling opinions and powers, the possession of the newest and latest farm implements and gadgets and his prowess as an amateur long distance runner and mountaineer.

      Milla enslaves herself to the farm, toiling in the fields along with the workers whilst doing her utmost to fall pregnant. Milla and Jak have very different ideas about farming and the fading promise of children only serves to drive them further and further apart.

      After burying her father, Milla discovers and “saves” the 5 year old Agaat from physical and sexual abuse. Finding her huddled in the fireplace ashes of a servant’s hovel with a deformed right arm, Agaat is unable (or unwilling) to speak. Milla more or less “adopts” her as her own child, teaching her how to speak, eat, even use the bathroom. This initial relationship is of course compromised and structured by the racist and supremacist ideologies rife in Afrikaans community in the sixties as well as the generally punitive and puritanical ideas about child rearing at the time. She is forced to work along with Milla from a very early age and to fall in step with the tough seasonal routines of farm life. Agaat grows up within a system of structured ambiguity.

      When, after thirteen years of marriage, Milla eventually falls pregnant with her own child, Agaat, is abruptly and without warning, given a maid’s uniform and moved out of her bedroom in the farmhouse to a sparse servant’s room in the backyard.

      The baby is immediately taken over by Agaat to exact her revenge becoming mother, governess, sister and best friend to the child allowing no relationship with his own biological father and mother. She has asserted a terrible power by harnessing to herself the means and opportunities of the system that subjugated her.

      Milla’s long, slow descent becomes an exercise in remembering and understanding, piecing together the fragments of a life misspent, opportunities lost and insights suppressed and finally the recognition of the central, enduring bond of her life: that with the “charity child,” Agaat.