17-year-old Karoliena Kapp lives with her mother in the sub-tropical Knysna forests of South Africa in the 1930s. They are part of a small community of poor white South Africans who have a strong connection to the woods, and are considered a sub-class by the rest of society. When the well-off shopkeeper Johannes falls for Karoliena, she is challenged on her close relationship with the forest she loves as well as her social status as one of the forest people.
René van Rooyen was the first South African woman director to be nominated for an Oscar for her achievements on Dream Forest. The film is based on a popular series of novels called Forest Novels (Toorbos (2003)) by Dalene Matthees. Constructed and largely narrated as a classic period drama, Dream Forest also depicts the big social differences within the white population in South Africa in the early 20th century. The Knysna forest itself becomes one of the main protagonists of the story, and both in imagery and function it represents the real drive behind whatever powers reside within young Karoliena.
Elani Dekker gives a brilliant turn as Karoliena, and adds a soulfulness and force which elevate the whole cinematic tale into something formidable. The film won Best Achievement in Script Writing and for Original Music/Score at the South African Film and Television Awards 2021.
René van Rooyen is a director, screenwriter, and part-owner in production company Red Letter Day Pictures. She is based in Cape Town, and is known for her debut short film Nantes (2012) and feature film Mooirivier (2015). She was nominated for an Oscar with Dream Forest in 2020.
This film is part of
Original title Toorbos
Country South Africa
Director René van Rooyen
Screenplay René van Rooyen
Cinematography Brendan Barnes
Producer André Scoltz, Dries Scholtz
Cast Elani Dekker, Stiaan Smith, Ira Blanckenberg, Clare Marshall, Ivan Abrahams, Gretchen Ramsden
Production Company The Film Factory
Distribution The Film Factory
Genre Drama, Adventure
Age limit 15
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