Tess, a gut-wrenching film about violence against women, should be seen by all South Africans.

Meg Rickards (film director, Tess) and Christia Visser ( lead actress, Tess) at the premiere of Tess at the Durban International Film Festival
The film, Tess,  is based on the book, Whiplash by South African novelist, Tracey Farren. Tess is a gut-wrenching film that grapples with the abuse of women within the soul-destroying context of drug addiction, prostitution, violence and poverty. We see the brutality against women through the eyes of Tess, the main character.

Tess, the prostitute and drug addict, lives recklessly by selling her body to men who violently abuse her as they see her as a sex object worthy of their lust and disgust. It is only when Tess becomes pregnant that she starts her own painful journey of healing. Reluctant at first, she confronts her dark, horrifying past of being sexually-abused as a child and then becomes more determined to transform her life.  Although there are glimpses of hope for Tess and her child whom she carries full term, this film has no fairytale ending.

Christia Visser is convincing as Tess, the sexy, outwardly hardened prostitute whose vulnerability and care for her fellow prostitute friends and her neighbours belie this cold fa├žade. The entire cast deserves praise for their outstanding performance.They aptly   portray members of a fractured community, trapped in their own world as the abused and the abuser.

I liked the racy, almost fragmented scenes that were pieced together by the central story of Tess and her journey. The close up visuals of people's faces or objects and the startling sound effects, kept me riveted throughout the film.  The film forces you to respond while you are watching it. You are drawn into the film with its violent nuances, as if you have no right to be an observer sitting comfortably in your theatre seat, oblivious that the story on screen is a slice of our lived reality.

Meg Rickards (right), DIFF director, Peter Machen (Centre) with producer, Kim Williams (far left)
 I must acknowledge that I gave a sigh of relief when the film ended.  Meg Rickards, the director of this film, successfully highlights the plight of thousands of women who are violated physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Like Tess, these women deserve to have their stories told unapologetically and they need to be given a future of hope. They need to be protected, nurtured and empowered to become the strong, beautiful people they are.

All kudus to Meg Rickards and her team for producing an outstanding film with a powerful social message. Everybody needs to see the film, Tess.

Basil standing next to the Tess billboard in the foyer of The Playhouse Company


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