Last night I went to see ‘Semi-Soet‘, a locally produced romantic comedy which opened at 70 cinemas country-wide on Friday. It was predominantly shot on Vrede en Lust wine estate at the entrance to Franschhoek, and I did not expect to enjoy the movie and laugh so much. The movie can be expected to see hordes of locals descending on Franschhoek generally, and to Vrede en Lust specifically.
‘Semi-Soet’ was produced by James and Anel (who doubles up as the lead actress) Alexander’s Scramble Productions, using a cast of well-known television actors, Nico Panagio being one of the best known actors in the cast, being a Top Billing presenter, but the other actors are known from series such as 7de Laan, Binnelanders, and the movie Liefling, also produced by the Alexanders. The story line takes two advertising agency teams from Johannesburg to the Franschhoek wine estate, to be evaluated by Vrede en Lust owner ‘Andries Buys’ for the advertising account. The teams are tested on the farm, in having to walk the ‘Vryersvoetpad’, a lover’s lane with challenges, not least of all being a pig! They also have to pick grapes and stomp them in barrels, before doing a presentation to win the account.
How Vrede en Lust got to be involved in the movie is not known, with a choice of hundreds of wine estates in the Winelands. Vrede en Lust owner Dana Buys writes on their website that they evaluated the past work of the Alexanders. They realised that a poor movie could badly affect their brand image, but the past work of the Alexanders (especially the movie ‘Discreet’) made them realise that the chances of the movie not being successful were small enough to make it worth their while to participate in the movie. “We had high hopes for Semi-Soet, but I suspect the movie will do much better than our wildest expectations”. There is copious branding for Vrede en Lust in the movie, not only in mentioning its name repeatedly throughout the movie, but also via a wine tasting of the flagship Boet Erasmus, wine bottles, and branded banners and a lectern.
The movie has received good reviews, and while some of the humour borders on slapstick, it is seen to be one of the best Afrikaans and local movies made to date. English sub-titles make the movie accessible to all South Africans.
The movie presents Vrede en Lust, and Franschhoek with it, in its glorious beauty, mainly with the Simonsberg as a backdrop, but also the Paarl mountains on the other side. Aerial shots over the farm and the Franschhoek wine valley, as well as the action filming in the vineyards, at the slave bell, and in the Manor House can only boost visitor numbers to Vrede en Lust, a wine estate that was established in 1688. Vrede en Lust is one of the two best-known and largest wedding venues in Franschhoek, and the movie ends off with a wedding of two of the movie characters, marketing this aspect of the wine estate too. The storyline positions Vrede en Lust as a wine estate with family values, passion, hard work, and a vision, which no doubt pertains to the real Vrede en Lust too. Interesting is that the farm owner pleads for non-pretentious descriptions of the wines tasted in the movie.
Funding for the film was received from the Industrial Development Corporation, and product placements were paid for in cash or as trade exchanges. Brands seen in the movie, and acknowledged on the movie’s website, include Avis, 1Time, Alpha Pharm, Rhapsody’s restaurant, and many more. The movie is good in encouraging wine-drinking, with an agency account win celebrated with sparkling wine, and the movie opening with wine-related illustrations, of wine glasses, bunches of grapes, and vine leaves.
Vrede en Lust has launched a Vryersvoetpad 2008 Merlot-dominant Bordeaux-style blend in honour of the movie, as a limited release of 1450 bottles. Each bottle is numbered, and can be bought at Makro, eStore, and on the wine farm.
POSTSCRIPT 21/2: I called Dana Buys after writing the blogpost, and he told me that they were approached by the producers to use his farm as the location. No cash exchanged hands, but they provided the location and the accommodation on the farm, not accepting any wedding bookings during the filming period. For the movie premieres around the country they had to provide the wine, and pay for the popcorn and colddrinks. From a brand awareness perspective, the movie will be excellent, especially when it goes to DVD and TV, he said. The movie was shot in April/May last year, and the first sign of autumn is visible in the vineyards. The grapes picked in the Merlot block were not real ones, he said, as they had long harvested at that time.
Vrede en Lust, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 874-1611 www.vnl.co.za Twitter: @DJBuys
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage