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'Serpent': Two people, one snake and coiled tension

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Often life does not lead us down the road we’ve planned and filmmaker – Amanda Evans, knows this all too well. Her debut feature film, the taut psychological thriller - ‘Serpent’, which was chosen as the official opening night screening of the Durban International Film Festival (Thursday, 13 July 2017), is most definitely not what she originally imagined would catapult her into the public cinematic eye!

With a smile she said: “Two people, one snake and a tent… it’s ironic that this script was selected for the Berlinale Co-Production Market and my more ambitious projects didn’t get into these circles" ... and so began my interview with filmmaker - Amanda Evans at the Videovision headquarters in La Lucia Ridge, Durban. 

Always one for a challenge, she not only had to create a film on a minimal budget, but also explore the complexities of human relationships, build the tension and inject elements of humour. “That’s what I loved about it,” she said with a smile. “I was bitten by the challenge. These human beings were fascinating and once they were brought to life, they wouldn’t leave me alone… there was a sense of humour from the very beginning.

“The initial draft was so much darker… but, how would you categorise sin? It’s always the woman who has stepped off the path and committed infidelity who is judged much more harshly than the man who kills for passion…”

In my opinion, she has managed to capture the essence of her dilemma in a cinematically tangible way. Literally every scene had me wondering about the secrets being hidden by both the husband and wife. Yes, she has reached a cul-de-sac in her life from whence there is no return… now she not only has to face the reality of who she is, but what she is going to do. Does she tell her husband or doesn’t she?

“That was the fascination of the challenge,” added Amanda. “Adding to the mix is people’s inherent fear of snakes, how do I (as a non-creature loving person) venture forward? My producer, Greg Buckle, saw who I was and what ‘Serpent’ could contain… what would occur when the characters realized that they were at death’s door and at the end rediscovered what they initially had at the beginning of their relationship. Would she let him die and walk away or would he save himself and leave her?”

Before I leave you to your viewing, however, I would like to stress the importance of the roles played by parents in molding their children’s imaginations, setting them on journeys that will shape their lives.

Story-teller

“Stories for kids are oozing out of me,” states Amanda whose foray into the darker world of tales was originated by her Welsh father – ‘the Warlock’, who regaled tales of trees with hands which followed children. She remembers her mother berating her father for telling her such scary stories, but she couldn’t wait for the next episode to emerge from her father’s fabulous imagination (which, in turn, was stimulated by Steven King’s writings). And, even her husband used to write her letters while courting of magic, castles and forests from a setting in Germany which had a castle in the background.

“There has to be a balance of light and dark,” she adds, “but, telling my children stories is part of who I am… there is a lifetime of fun ahead (and, perhaps, a children’s movie or two with dragons (of course)”.

You’d actually be amazed to know that there are many mothers who are filmmakers (and natural story-tellers) as Amanda discovered at the LA Film Festival where ‘Serpent’ was screened for the first time. “The wisdom of women doesn’t disappear at the birth of a child… I am a story-maker, film-maker and also a mother who at the age of 7 (intrinsically) understood the shapes of the shots in the making of a film… close-up shots, wide angles” … the movie was ‘Indiana Jones’.

But, every woman needs support … And this Amanda has at every turn – from her 6’4” husband to the Videovision team who have been with her all the way and will be there for her next venture. “We made this together – an invaluable team!

Last, but not least, Amanda was blown away by the audience response to ‘Serpent’ – as a filmmaker you know you’ve hit the nail on the head if you have stimulated conversations. It’s not merely whether the audience members like the film or not, but rather whether it has posed questions and stimulated debate.

“I couldn’t have been more Blessed (last night)… the collective intake of breath (at the movements of the snake), the voiced conversations as the audience left the theatre…"

And this is where I dangle the bait … now it’s up to you to find out more! ‘Serpent’, starring Sarah Dumont and Tom Ainsley, is being screened on 18 July (6pm) at Durban's Playhouse Theatre (Anton Lembede Street) and Sun 23 July 12pm at Ster-Kinekor, Musgrave.

The Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) has screenings at various venues over a 10-day period and concludes on Sunday 23 July!

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