The story of Alison Botha sent shock waves through South Africa in 1994, and now, 22 years later, her story will be shared on the big screen.
Ms Botha was raped, stabbed and disemboweled in a brutal attack in Port Elizabeth, but she survived to rebuild her life as an inspirational speaker.
The story of her life is now the subject of a hybrid documentary, which makes its world premiere at the Encounters International Documentary Film Festival, which runs until Thursday June 12.
Director Uga Carlini first heard Ms Botha speak in 1999 at her school, DF Malan High School.
“I wanted to share what I felt that day when I heard Alison share her story with us. I wanted to share this with everyone.”
The hybrid film is a bold mixture of fairytale idiom and an unflinching frankness to tell its story of survival, resilience and triumph.
The role of Alison is played by 24-year-old Christia Visser, of Bellville.
Ms Visser fell in love with acting when she was at school and decided to pursue it as a career.
She attended Stellenbosch High School, where she took dance, drama and music as subjects. After high school, she enrolled at Act Cape Town, where she studied for two years.
When Ms Visser initially received the audition brief from her agent, she thought she was too young for the role.
“I met Alison when I was nine years old in Swellendam, but I didn’t fully understand what had happened to her.” Ms Carlini says she knew right after Ms Visser’s audition that she would be perfect for the role. “When she walked in, I knew that I had found my Alison.”
Visser says she read Ms Botha’s book, I Have Life: Alison’s Journey, a few times and any news or information that was available on her and what had happened. “It is difficult to portray an actual person; this was not a fictional character.
“I didn’t want to portray her (inaccurately). I spoke to Alison to try to pick up who she is as a person; I wanted to know what her mindset was at the time and how she got to the place in her life that she is now.”
They started filming in April 2015 in Scarborough and wrapped up production on Monday May 23. Ms Carlini says the film has been four years in the making, as they first had to find film sponsors. “I am excited that we get to finally share this story. It has been a long journey, and now people finally get to see it, and I am ready.”
Ms Visser says this is a new product that the public has not experienced yet, and while many may know the story of Alison, this film brings so much more.
“This is a very personal film. I hope people understand that the human spirit is stronger than you can ever imagine. If she could make it through, then so can you.”
Ms Visser has starred in Hollywood In My Huis, Ballade Vir ’* Enkeling, Die Boekklub and Girl From Nowhere. When not acting or studying scripts, she enjoys spending time with her family.
“My job is my hobby, but when I’m not filming, I enjoy writing songs and would love to start writing scripts.
“It is important for me to spend time with my family and those who support me, as this is not an easy industry, and it can tear you apart.”
Ms Visser and her family moved to Bellville four years ago. They moved around a lot when she was younger, she says, but she enjoys living in Bellville.
For now, she plans to continue acting and says her heart lies in South Africa.
“I want to keep on growing as an actor; acting is the love of my life. While I would like to star in big Hollywood films one day, for now, I plan to continue starring in local films that challenge me.”
She adds: “Talent is one thing, but you need to work hard on your craft. I am constantly learning. You have to trust your own journey and not focus on someone else’s.”
Ms Carlini was born and bred in Boston, but now lives in Fish Hoek. She encourages the public to go out and see this film, which hits Nu Metro cinemas in August.
“This is more than just a film. It tells the story of one person who completely changed her circumstances. It is an uplifting story, which shows that you can make it through anything.”
Ms Botha said: “It’s a big moment when you share something that you really believe in with others. I am a little nervous at what their reaction will be. And that moment becomes significant and pivotal when they choose to believe in it too.”
Penguin Random House will also be publishing a film tie-in edition of the book, Alison’s Journey, as told to Marianne Thamm.