Monday, June 7, 2021

Fiela se Kind film director Katina Heyns on Shaleen Surtie-Richards: 'She had all of us laughing the one moment, and weeping the next.'

by Thinus Ferreira

The iconic South African director Katina Heyns says that the iconic actress Shaleen Surtie-Richards (66) who unexpectedly died on Monday "had all of us laughing the one moment, and weeping the next".

Shaleen Surtie-Richards whose two most iconic roles include Nenna in Egoli on M-Net (DStv 101) and Fiela in the 1988 film Fiela se Kind, passed away on Monday in a Cape Town guest house from unknown causes - although she didn't take her own life - as she was filming for her role in the Arendsvlei telenovela on kykNET & Kie (DStv 145). 

Not only was the hugely successful Fiela se Kind, based on the novel of Dalene Matthee, the first for Katinka Heyns in the director's chair, but also the first on-screen role for Shaleen Surtie-Richards who lept from stage to screen in the emotional story.

On Monday Katina Heyns reminisced with TVwithThinus after the passing of Shaleen Surtie-Richards, and shared a brief oral history of how Shaleen came to be cast as Fiela in her film and how she knew that the actress would be just the right fit for the role of Fiela Komoetie.

"Shaleen was new to the scene and in her various roles on stage she was quickly garnering a lot of attention and acclaim. However, I wasn't sure whether she would have been able to make a successful transition from stage to screen," Katinka said.

"If you find success on stage, you're not necessarily a great actor in front of the camera. And the character of Fiela is an extrovert - someone who plays outwards to the outside world as a character. So it was a bit of a sensitive area."

"I knew that I had to be honest with Shaleen which I did - and I told her that I will be doing further auditions. And I mean - just there she could have gotten miffed with me but she just accepted it and after a lot of further auditions I just knew: This person really is the closest to a Fiela."

"There is a big centre point to the character - the sensitivity and the heart and the soul of the character of Fiela - so we just did one single scene between Shaleen Surtie-Richards and Jan Ellis. And in that moment I immediately knew that, yes, Shaleen would be able to do the transition."

"Shaleen Surtie-Richards is a fantastic, very honest person and I think her honesty as a human being made that she was able to play any character if she liked the character and understood the character," says Katinka Heyns.

"Dalene Matthee who wrote Fiela se Kind liked Shaleen Surtie-Richards a lot, and on the Fiela se Kind film set Shaleen was always the team's cheerleader - she had all of us laughing the one moment; and weeping the next".

"Then she would arrive at premiere night and you wouldn't recognise her - with the lipstick and the nails and the whole transformation she would undergo. It was as if she could switch from one persona to the next so quickly and seamlessly."

"After Fiela se Kind I didn't have contact with Shaleen again because she made enormous strides in the industry and went on to do a lot of other stage and TV and film roles."

"But in Fiela se Kind we shared our joint passion for telling stories and I think we will both be forever grateful that we shared that film together as our first movie project - because Fiela se Kind is my first official film as a director and Shaleen Surtie-Richards' first official main role in film. And forever it will cast us together like in stone."

In remembrance of Shaleen Surtie-Richards, MultiChoice will broadcast Fiela se Kind this coming weekend on fliekNET (DStv 149) with the date and time still to be confirmed. See the programming details of DStv's planned tributes on TV for the coming week here.