- Yonga Balfour
I Am ALL GIRLS
Updated: Nov 4, 2021
Today Netflix releases I am ALL GIRLS, a proudly South African movie starring Hlubi Mboya-Arnold, Erica Wessels, Mothusi Magano, Brendon Daniels and other South African recognisable names. Mosadi had an exclusive preview and the opportunity to catch up with the cast.
I am ALL GIRLS follows stories of human trafficking in apartheid South Africa, particularly that of Gert van Rooyen, a paedophile and alleged serial killer who was suspected of kidnapping and killing six young girls. Unfortunately, the girls were never found, and Gert committed suicide before he could get arrested for the crimes.
The movie’s producer Donavan Marsh, mentions that though the movie is inspired by true events, the crew chose to step away from using the victims’ real names and pictures, as well as those of the accused. “We did speak to one of the parents of the victims and obviously it’s an open wound for them. Those kids were never found. So, at the end it just seemed as the right thing not to use their original names and reopen those wounds,” he said.
I am ALL GIRLS, however, uses the same initials of the victims and changed Gert’s full name to Gert de Jagger.
Hlubi plays the role of Ntombi, a forensic specialist who was one of Gert’s victims. Asked how the character is similar to that of Nandipha, whom she played on SABC 3’s (now S3), popular soap Isidingo, she says Papa G’s club would’ve been the brothel Ntombi was raised at.
“If we knew then in Isidingo days what we know now about human trafficking it would’ve been a perfect set-up. Paga G would’ve been the Israel Zulu [in the movie]. I think that the beauty of art is to reveal the truth about society and as I did as an HIV girl [on Isidingo] when it was the epidemic, now human trafficking is a big thing. We read on social media about missing kids, where do you think they’re going, what do you think they’re being used for? It’s great that responsibility is being placed on our [actors] shoulders to tell it as it is, which is a very powerful tool,” she said.
Erica, who plays Jodie, a passionate detective willing to go above and beyond to get justice reflects on how much she’s learnt from her role from the movie.
“The joys of being an actor is having to dip into this world that you wouldn’t have known absolutely nothing about. I learnt so much about human trafficking and being a captain, being part of The Hawks – the underbelly of that world, which is obviously a dark and emotionally taxing world – it’s not something I would’ve necessarily been exposed to hadn’t I done this film.”
Because Jodie doesn’t like playing by the book, Erica is asked if she shares any similarities to the character. After some thought, she jokingly responds, “Yeah, I can relate. I mean I think I’m a good citizen of the world. I have a driver’s license.” Then she continues to say,
“I don’t do well with bureaucracy, paperwork, anything where there’s a kind of a system I’m really naturally against it and I’m not sure if it’s entirely because I’m emotional or a creative or artist but I just feel like I can relate to that part of her. Also, when it’s about something like this [human trafficking], which is so wrong, at some point you’ve got to go ‘what works, how do we get these people to stop doing this?’ And if the system fails us perpetually, repetitively and the resources are scarce … I don’t know … you are in a moral dilemma. At what point do you say ‘screw the system we’re going rogue?’ I’m not saying that that’s okay at all by a long shot, but it does ask interesting questions.
According to the Borgen Project, an estimation of around 21 million people around the world fell victim to human trafficking in 2018 alone. Though both male and female get trafficked, the numbers are higher for females, as they are likely to be used for sexual exploitation and domestic service. Based on the U.S Department of State, South Africa falls under what is considered the Tier 2 Watchlist.
Watch the trailer below.