Gripping South African docuseries for Devilsdorp fans
The unbelievable docuseries Devilsdorp has undoubtedly awakened South Africans’ appetite for true-crime dramas and I find myself searching for more of these stories, more often. It is the perfect filler between Hollywood blockbusters, but believe me – once you’ve watched one just to change up your viewing a bit, you’ll get lost in it, over and over again.
Try this little experiment during the coming week: there is a collection of six true-life drama series listed below. Pair it up with the Blade trilogy. For each Blade movie you watch, choose the first episode of two of the suggestions in the list below before you watch the next movie. See how much willpower it will take to not watch a second episode before you watch a movie again!
Thousands of people go missing in South Africa each year and luckily most of them are found relatively quickly. You’ve seen those posts on Facebook – missing child posts shared by people who can’t be bothered to check the date or the outcome of the original post. “No, Aunty Caroline, they found this kid the same day five years ago! Please delete your post!”
But what happens to the stories of those people who were never found? Whether they are found or not, a lot of questions usually remain, and Doreen Morris is asking all the right questions with the assistance of reputable researchers such as Mandy Wiener, and investigates the unresolved cases of South Africa’s missing. In the process, she meets relatives and deciphers the doings of their missing loved ones before their disappearances. In doing so, she approaches them with the utmost compassion. She deals with truly heartbreaking cases.
You will probably cry through the first episode as she visits the Lottering parents, whose two daughters both disappeared within a period of eight months. The eldest daughter is still missing to this day, while the younger one’s body was discovered in a field five weeks after her disappearance, more than two decades ago.
It is a very emotional series, but Doreen is very sincere and the episodes turn out to be thoughtful tributes: “Your daughter Edna sounds like the most wonderful person and we would like to honour her life, so please tell me more about her.”
Agter Tralies – My Lewe van Misdaad (Behind Bars – My Life of Crime)
Most of us don’t really hold the South African criminal justice system to high regard and probably secretly think that South Africa criminals can’t be rehabilitated. Agter Tralies proves us wrong. In this series, offenders tell us about the crimes that landed them in jail, the time they spent behind bars, and how they rebuilt their lives in the outside world after their release.
In the very first episode we meet Lianné Meyer, who had everything but almost threw her life away. It is the story of a pretty, straight-A student who, after school, became a stripper when there were no funds for university, ended up getting married with two kids after getting her life on track, but still ended up in jail because her small scale fraud of R2 000 became R5.5 million.
It is unbelievable how candidly people share their stories of accepting responsibility during their incarceration while only being a number in the big house, stripped of all dignity, and walking out head high, despite having been ostracised. It is a very personal journey on which they let you in and it hits home because these people tell their stories themselves.
There is hope for South Africa yet!
Keerpunt (Turning Point)
I don’t know a single person who won’t relate to this series. Everyone has had a turning point in their lives by now. Our lives are constantly being changed and shaped by forces beyond our control. Your turning point might have been that first job, your first car that opened up the world to you, perhaps you won the lottery, had a major car accident or found your significant other.
Turning points, for better or for worse.
Keerpunt looks at the unbelievable and inconceivable, and they aren’t all fairy tales. Take Estelle’s “keerpunt” for example: she and her husband are ordinary South Africans who were looking forward to celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary with an overseas trip on a cruise ship and meeting up with their son in the UK towards the end of their holiday to celebrate the dad’s 65th birthday. Things go catastrophically wrong when they end up in the middle of the chaos of the Tunisian terror attack of 2015, in which 38 tourists were mowed down indiscriminately.
Miraculously, the South Africans walked away with their lives. No harm came to Estelle’s husband but she got hit by bullets twice in her lower body and their real troubles only started after the terrorists were killed. Their unbelievable story is also only one of 37 in the series!
Kriminele Meesterbrein (Criminal Mastermind)
If you haven’t delved into the 91 episodes that make up Huisgenoot: Ware Lewensdramas, you can treat this series as an unofficial predecessor or its pocket companion guide of sorts. A few of the stories covered in Kriminele Meesterbrein also appear on the Huisgenoot offering, but the way they are presented differs a lot and offers a different view of the stories without distorting the facts.
Worst case, they overlap, giving you an even bigger picture. It is like reading about the same story in two different newspapers to get a better understanding of what went down. With Rian Van Heerden as presenter, this show pays tribute to victims of crime as well as the sheer determination of law enforcement officers of the South African Police Service who solved these cases.
Vergewe My (Forgive Me)
This is a seriously hectic series that explores the harrowing stories of crimes such as rape and murder. To some extent the perpetrators attempt to reconcile with those they have hurt, but some people might go all existential on this – how do you forgive such a person? What would I do if it was me in that situation?
Personally, I see this as a guide to forgiveness, because there are 19 episodes to test your own levels of forgiveness. The little girl’s words from the first episode still haunts me: “My father changed after my sister’s death – he likes to drink to forget.”
Mike Bolhuis is like Marmite – you either smaak it stukkend it or you would emigrate to get away from it. He is one of South Africa’s most infamous private eyes. He is also eccentric AF, living it up in his Pretoria-North mansion with his exotic fish and his flamingos.
Bolhuis has seen some of the biggest crime dockets come across his desk over the last 20 years and this series looks at how Mzansi’s own Johnny Bravo goes about fighting the good fight for the vulnerable – children and animals – while maintaining an immaculate table top.