A touching Afrikaans novel for teens makes the big screen
15 June 2017
Filmmaker are increasingly making popular young adult books into successful movies. ‘Nul is Nie Niks Nie’ (“Zero is not Nothing”) is a heart-warming and darkly amusing Afrikaans film about three friends who set out to make Drikus’ wish come true.
‘Nul is nie Niks Nie’ is based on the popular book ‘Oor 'n Motorfiets, 'n Zombiefliek en Lang Getalle Wat Deur Elf Gedeel Kan Word’, (About a Motorcycle, a Zombie Movie and Large Numbers Divisible by Eleven), by prolific South African children's book author Jaco Jacobs, who has published more than 100 books for children and young adults. The film was directed by Morne du Toit.
“It was a big responsibility to adapt the film because Jaco Jacobs is a well-known and much-loved author,” says Lizé Vosloo, who wrote the screenplay for the film and is also a producer with Stefan Enslin who produced the successful Strikdas: ‘n Familie Gedoente
“There are no rules or guidelines that tell you exactly what makes a novel a good contender for a film. Both set out to tell a story. The difference between the two is that a novel makes use of words to create the world the story is set in. With a film, you tell the story by making use of pictures; you show the story through actions.”
Like the terminally ill teenagers in The Faults in our Stars, the characters in Nul is Nie Niks Nie shows viewers that a short life can still be a good life. In between all the pranks, there is a profound, realistic portrayal of teenage tragedy,” says Helen Kuun of Indigenous Film Distribution.
Vosloo says the first time she read, “Oor ‘n motorfiets, ‘n zombiefliek en lang getalle wat deur elf gedeel kan word,” she was deeply touched by the story. “Adapting a novel is challenging. Because words are charged with meaning, they can describe a feeling, a setting, a thought. You don’t have that in film. Your characters can’t say everything they feel or think, you have to show what your character is experiencing. That’s why capturing the heart of this moving, delightful novel was so important.”
The film is brought to life by the trio of friends at the heart of the story. Thirteen-year-old Hoender is a mathematics genius and a successful chicken farmer who is missing his father. When Drikus moves in next door, Hoender befriends him and discovers that the new boy has Hodgkin's disease and dreams of making a zombie movie before he dies. The trio is completed by Chris, Hoender’s dream girl.
They quickly form an unbreakable bond, and together they escape the monotony of their daily lives. School bullies, Drikus' overprotective parents and Hoender’s reclusive mother are all forgotten as they focus on making their movie. Together, the friends discover that zero is not nothing -- it’s slap bang in the middle of the positive and the negative, signifying pure potentiality.
Also appearing in ‘Nul is Nie Niks Nie’ are Morné Visser, Marisa Drummond, Antoinette Louw, June van Merch, Kim Syster, Bradley Olivier, and Francois Jacobs.
The film is produced by Redhead Productions and Faith in Motion Productions, in association with kykNET Films, the ATKV, and the DTI. It is being distributed in South Africa by Indigenous Film Distribution, and will be released in cinemas nationwide on 7 July.