They tried to break into the Afrikaans music scene in South Africa…did they make it? The answer lies in this mockumentary from star, writer, and director Jon Savage.
Stone Cold Jane Austen is a rock band from South Africa who has been trying to make it in the local music scene. The group consists of a duo, singer and guitarist Johnny van Heroine and bassist Karel Jacobs. They try to get themselves in the world of Afrikaans rock, but Johnny’s arrogant nature when he gets into a rift with a member of Fokofpolisiekar doesn’t exactly go as planned on local television and the band is seen as a joke.
However, Karel and Johnny continue to make music and get their names known by attempting to do a fundraiser for rhino preservation. When that is a major failure, the band has an opportunity to do a small tour that leads to a major event at the Oppikoppi Music Festival in Limpopo. However, Johnny’s ego gets the best of him, and it causes a massive fight on stage with Karel, who has constantly grown tired of Johnny’s massive ego and controlling nature. When Karel leaves the band, a huge opportunity comes a month later. Will the two be able to get over their differences and finally make their lifelong dream come true?
This can be summed up as South Africa’s answer to This is Spinal Tap as it focuses on a rock band who is getting their name out there. The brainchild of Jon Savage, who wrote, produced, directed, did the music, and plays the arrogant Johnny van Heroine, the film is a fascinating look at a band that could have been and never was, but it is their passion and friendship that keeps them doing what they want to do. We are treated to the struggles the duo of Johnny and Karel go through to get their name known.
While Savage plays the arrogant, controlling, and egotistical Johnny, Rob van Vuuren’s Karel is level-headed and grounded. At times, he does offer the viewer a chance to see some of the repercussions Johnny must endure due to his ego. This includes Johnny getting punched in the face by a producer at a studio in which Karel asks the cameraman if he caught the punch because they could use it. However, for Karel, it becomes clear that Karel slowly has some serious pent-up frustration and when he’s alone with the crew, he does vent out, growing tried of his bandmate’s ego and controlling nature.
The band’s futile attempts to get their name known are quite interesting and funny. The Rock for Rhinos fundraising concert seems promising until the only signed singer, Kurt Darren, realizes there is no audience mid-song, and he just leaves the band hanging. On top of that, Karel finally sees some sort of sympathy from Johnny when his beloved squirrel had died, and we see Karel at the tombstone telling the story. The most insane moments come in the third and final act, when the band implodes at the Oppikoppi festival (which is a real music festival) and their shot at redemption nearly derailed by something on the level of O.J. Simpson in the mid-1990s.
Stone Cold Jane Austen is a funny and sometimes emotional mockumentary about a South African band who do so much to get recognized. Rob van Vuuren and Jon Savage are excellent when it comes to playing polar opposites in the titular band together. Definitely worth checking out (for those interested, Jon Savage himself uploaded the full film on YouTube)!
WFG RATING: A-
Moonlighting presents a We Are Savage film. Director: Jon Savage. Producers: Jon Savage, Michelle Pretorius, and Diana Keam. Writer: Jon Savage. Cinematography: Wayne de Lange. Editing: Melissa Parry.
Cast: Rob van Vuuren, Jon Savage, Kurt Schoonraad, Kurt Darren.