An outsider in a relationship with the audience

Karla Lončar of the 2014 Talent Press interviewed South Africa filmmaker John Trengove.

John Trengove

John Trengove is a promising filmmaker from South Africa, mostly known as the director of a TV miniseries, HOPEVILLE, which won the Rose d‘Or award for best drama, was nominated for an Emmy award and was turned into a feature film in 2010. This year he has quite a busy schedule at the Berlinale: He is a Talent, a participant in the Script Station program and in the Generation section with his latest short film, THE GOAT (IBHOKHWE, South Africa). The film was also screened at the Berlinale Talents event "Screening Shorts. A Compilation of Short Films", after which he sat down for a brief interview.

When asked how he feels about being recognized as a distinctive director so early in his career, he replied: “Different projects have gotten different kinds of acknowledgment. I did a TV series in South Africa that got a lot of critical acclaim and was a wonderful experience. It sort of became the thing I was most known for in my industry and has certainly opened up a lot of doors. But the work that we’re doing now is a lot more personal and is much closer to a personal expression of mine as a filmmaker."

THE GOAT, an adaptation of a novel, "A Man Who Is Not A Man," by Thando Mgqolozana, tells the story of a South African teenager who recuperates in a mountain hut after a ritual circumcision, which symbolizes a boy’s journey into manhood and the world of heterosexuality. But the boy’s grandfather, who is supposed to lead to him into the new phase of life, doesn’t come, leaving him alone with his pain. The film’s theme reflects Trengove’s interests: "I’m interested in human nature and the experience of outsiders. I feel like an outsider in my life – I’ve always identified with that position, so that’s where it comes from."

When asked to describe his film style, Trengove replied, "I feel I’m always revolting against the thing that I did before, so it’s hard for me to say. I suppose I’m more and more interested in a relationship with the audience; I ask the audience to fill in a lot of the gaps and do some of the interpretation." In terms of people he admires, he does have his "superstars of the moment": Michael Haneke, Ulrich Seidl and Carlos Reygadas are the directors who influence him the most.

His next project, is a feature film entitled, THE WOUND, developed at Script Station, probably won’t represent a big stylistic turn. "It’s a feature version of THE GOAT", he said. "It’s set in the same world, and it deals with the same thematic concerns, but it’s a stand-alone story of a gay relationship triangle that becomes dangerous in that context." Being an outsider sometimes involves taking risks.