If you have even a fleeting interest in local TV shows, you’ll have heard of the Afrikaans telenovela Arendsvlei, about a high school at the heart of a community that’s fallen on hard, challenging times. Now that all 156 episodes of the first season are ready to be binge-watched on Showmax, with new episodes of Season 2 arriving on DStv Now on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, now is exactly the right time to be schooled on the nitty-gritty of the series.
What is Arendsvlei about?
The quaint town of Arendsvlei has more skeletons in its closets than the townsfolk can handle.
The fictional town is a stone’s throw from Cape Town in the Western Cape, and despite the community’s best attempts to find the good in life, there’s always someone and something trying to tear them down. The drama starts in episode 1 with the high school’s star athlete Vernon (Dillion Windvogel) being shot and forced to watch his Olympic dreams go down the drain.
“There are stories ranging from hope and dreams of a better, safer life, through to tales of betrayal, scandal, guilt and worse.” – Producer Roberta Durrant
“The shock slowly tears through the community as no one knows who shot Vernon and why,” explains series producer Roberta Durrant.
“We are telling stories that affect real-life communities and our viewers will, on some level, be able to connect with our characters. There are stories ranging from hope and dreams of a better, safer life, through to tales of betrayal, scandal, guilt and worse.”
What gives Arendsvlei its authentic feel?
For one thing, all the high school students are real-life students from the Axios School of Skills just outside of Cape Town.
Second, it was created by Theltom Masimila, who started writing it when he was a similar age to the high school students in the show.
“It’s been a long time since we had a proper, real Afrikaans telenovela that’s set in the school environment and tells stories of the teachers and students, as well as the community they live in.” – Creator Theltom Masimila
“I began working on it in 2012 when I was 19. I originally planned it as a sort-of novel that I would submit to magazines for publication, but it never got that far,” adds the 27-year-old writer, who says that while he originally planned a 156-episode telenovela, he is overjoyed at the second season of his creation. “Season 1 deals with the search for identity and how crime can change your life, while season 2 focuses on family secrets and that the grass is not always greener on the other side.”
Another element that adds a real-life flair to the show is the way the characters speak.
“The language and grammar that we use in the telenovela is authentic,” says Theltom. “It’s easy for our viewers to follow and it will speak to the people and communities whose stories are included. It’s been a long time since we had a proper, real Afrikaans telenovela that’s set in the school environment and tells stories of the teachers and students, as well as the community they live in.”
Who’s who in Arendsvlei?
Here are the important faces to keep an eye on in the school and the community.
At the centre of Vernon’s shooting is Beatrice (Jolene Martin), the vice principal of the high school. “The education facility is her baby. She has put blood, sweat and tears into building it and giving the community’s children a safe space to learn, but that is over now. She’s heartbroken, especially because she has a soft spot for Vernon,” explains Jolene.
David (Oscar Petersen, Duan in Die Byl) is the high school’s self-indulgent headmaster who has a thirst for power. The more he gets, the more he wants – and he’s using it to hide a secret.
Thys (Sherman Pharo, Terrence in Die Spreeus) owns shares in Arendsvlei High School and is the maths teacher. The loving dad also enjoys playing music for anyone who’ll listen to his guitar strumming.
Ronel (Melanie du Bois, known best as Felicity Daniels in 7de Laan) is besties with Beatrice and has enrolled her children at Arendsvlei High where she can keep an eye on them as a mother and protect them from being bullied as a teacher.
Handsome school secretary Christopher (Ernest St Clair) is head over heels for one of the teachers and doesn’t mind that it puts his job on the line.
Lionel (Jody Abrahams, who used to play Donovan Roux in 7de Laan) loves nothing more than riding his motorbike, getting drunk and fighting. He loves the ladies, but he’s also tormented by his past.
Janice (Crystal-Donna Roberts, Charmaine in Vallei Van Sluiers) is a hardworking mother who will do anything for her family. Her downfall is her desperation for acceptance by the community.
Wendy (Rehane Abrahams, Denise in Die Spreeus) owns the local restaurant Wendy House. She’s also the devious town loanshark and there are no lows she won’t sink to to get what’s due to her from her clients.
Aunty Gertie (Celeste Matthews, Debbie in Sara Se Geheim) is the Cupido family matriarch. She puts her children and grandchildren before her, but she does have an emptiness in her heart that needs attention.