There was not a dry eye in the house after a special screening of a movie that tells the heart-wrenching story of a mother and her drug-addicted son and the circumstances that led to her killing her own child.
The death of 20-year-old Adam (Abie) Pakkies, played by Jarrid Geduld in Ellen: The Story of Ellen Pakkies, at the hands of his mother, Ellen, played by Jill Levenberg, was widely publicised in 2007.
Told across two timelines, the movie is a harrowing account of a woman put through the penal system, tried for murder and driven by an unflinching love for her son. It delves into the psyche of a family destroyed by drugs, in Lavender Hill, a community plagued by gangsterism, substance abuse and violence.
In taking on the case, advocate Adrian Samuels was determined to prove that Ellen Pakkies had had no choice but to kill her son.
Stars took to the blue carpet for the premiere of this film on Wednesday August 22 at the opening of the Silwerskerm Festival at The Bay Hotel in Camps Bay with a special appearance by Ellen Pakkies herself.
Guests at the packed Rotunda were left speechless at the end of the film.
The film was shot on location at the Pakkies’ home in Dover Court, Lavender Hill, where the actual events took place. From Ms Pakkies’ house and Abie’s room (where the murder took place), to the magistrate’s court in Wynberg and Pollsmoor Prison.
Writer Amy Jephta, from Mitchell’s Plain, said the film’s prpducers had approached her to write the script.
Like others, she had heard about the story, but after sitting down with Ms Pakkies, she realised there was much more to it than what she had read in the newspapers.
“She told parts of the story that I didn’t know and which never made it to the headlines. Things about her personal life and her history with her son,” she said.
Ms Jephta said she was inspired to take on this project as it was a part of her history – knowing the community Ms Pakkies came from and having grown up on the Cape Flats as well.
“I understood her struggle on one level but I also came to learn about the story behind the story.”
Ms Levenberg said in preparing for the story, she spent time with Ms Pakkies and in Lavender Hill.
“I also got a place close to the sea where I could isolate myself completely and empty myself of myself so I could listen to Ellen’s voice,” she said.
Ms Levenberg, who comes from Kensington, said the story was foreign to her, especially for people coming from Cape Town. She hoped the movie would have a positive impact not only on South Africa but internationally as well.
“I hope this film brings attention to the plight of people who are living in dire circumstances on the Cape Flats – which I feel is a grossly neglected area and does not form part of the rest of Cape Town,” she said.
Ms Levenberg, who currently plays Mymoena in KykNET’s Suidooster, graduated from UCT on the Dean’s Merit List in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in drama and English and was nominated for two Fleur Du Cap Awards while studying.
She has played several parts in films and on television, including Genadekans, Noem My Skollie, Leemte, Abraham, Bekkies Gevind, As Ek Huistoe Kom, Atlas and Uitvlucht.
Mr Geduld said he was excited about playing the role of Abie and had spent time with his real friends, learning what he had been like- picking their brain on how he was as a person.
“It is always a challenge to tell someone’s true story – especially when the person is no longer there. Based on my time with his family and friends, I was able to get a better understanding of him,” he said.
Mr Geduld said he had to lose weight for the role and it was important for him to lose some weight while playing this part and had ended up shedding 13kg.
“It wasn’t the easiest thing, but I genuinely felt that would get me in the zone and do a little justice to the role,” he said.
Mr Geduld, from Eerste River, has been in the industry for 16 years, having acted in various films and theatre productions including, A Boy Called Twist, The Whale Caller, The Brothers Grimsby, Black Sails and Four Corners.
The role of Ms Pakkies’ husband, Odneal, is played by Elton Landrew, a South African actor born in Nababeep, Namaqualand.
He is best known for his roles in the David Kramer/ Taliep Pietersen musicals, District Six and Kat and the Kings. Other actors which can be seen in the filminclude Ilse Klink, Clint Brink and Russel Savadier.
Award-winning director Daryne Joshua, best-known for his successful debut film Noem My Skollie said: “We hope that an influential person will see the film and make a meaningful difference in such communities.
“We went to great lengths to show audiences the real world in which Ellen lived, and where she and women like her continue to live.”
The film will start showing countrywide from Friday September 7.