Inspired by the true story of Siseko Ntondini and Piers Cruickshanks, who together won gold in the 2014 Dusi

Duma is a talented young man who feels trapped by his surroundings and finds himself on the wrong side of the law. After a near miss with the cops, he finds an escape in the world of canoeing, an old passion of his. Steve is a nine-time Dusi gold medalist whose marriage is on the verge of collapse. His passion for the sport is fueled by his wanting to escape from something in his past that continues to haunt him.

Through a series of unexpected events, the two men find themselves attempting the three-day Dusi Canoe Marathon as a doubles pair. But there are a few things they must overcome, not least of which are the completely different worlds they come from. They realise that the dream they both desperately desire requires them to work together, both in the boat and beyond the river.

Inspired by the true story of Siseko Ntondini and Piers Cruickshanks, who together won gold in the 2014 Dusi, Beyond the River delivers a nail-biting adventure story about the triumph of the human spirit.

Brought to the big screen by Heartlines and Quizzical Pictures

Starring Grant Swanby (Blood Diamond, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and Invictus) as Steve Andrews, and Lemogang Tsipa (When We Were Black, Traffic! and Jab), who makes his debut lead role as Duma Madlala. Other cast members include Israel Sipho Matseke Zulu, formerly Makoe (Yizo Yizo, Tsotsi and Gaz’lam), Emily Child (Shirley Adams and Village Voices), Mary Twala (Beat the Drum and Lucky), Kgosi Mongake (Invictus, The Bang Bang Club and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) and Garth Breytenbach (Black Sails and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom).

The movie was written by Craig Freimond and Robbie Thorpe, directed by Freimond and produced by Thorpe, Harriet Gavshon and Ronnie Apteker. The beautifully shot film showcases some of South Africa’s spectacular KwaZulu-Natal landscapes and has been funded by the National Lotteries Commission, the Department of Trade and Industry, the National Film and Video Foundation and the KwaZulu Natal Film Commission.

Cast
  • Lemogang Tsipa: Duma
  • Grant Swanby: Steve
  • Israel Sipho Matseke Zulu (formerly Israel Makoe): Oupa
  • Emily Child: Annie
  • Mary Twala: Gogo
  • Kgosi Mongake: Zama
  • Garth Breytenbach: Dan
  • Simo Magwaza: Mandla
  • Paul du Toit: Eddie
  • Ben Voss: Geoff
Directed by
  • Craig Freimond
Written by
  • Craig Freimond
  • Robbie Thorpe
Produced by
  • Robbie Thorpe
  • Harriet Gavshon
  • Ronnie Apteker
Crew
  • Cinematography: Trevor Calverley
  • Music: Chris Letcher
  • Casting: Moonyeenn Lee
  • Production Design: Flo Ballack
Grant Swanby

Grant Swanby

Steve

Steve is an English teacher at a boy’s high school in Johannesburg. He is extremely passionate about English literature and poetry and getting young kids to see the joy of that world. His other great passion in life is canoeing. He has been a major player in the SA canoeing scene for the last fifteen years having won some major races and having won nine gold medals at the Dusi.
Lemogang Tsipa

Lemogang Tsipa

Duma

Duma Madlala finished school at the local school a couple of years ago. He is a strong young man with a good heart but his life is teetering on the edge. He has no real direction. Many of his friends drink too much and some are getting addicted to drugs like Nyaope. He is trying his best to avoid these traps but they definitely seem to provide some anaesthetic to a tough life with very few opportunities.
Matseke Zulu

Matseke Zulu

Oupa

Oupa also lives in Elias Motsoaledi and he runs the canoe club at Orlando dam. He works as an electrician. He is also a very good canoeist but he started too late in life to ever achieve anything formal. He spent time in jail in his youth, and is now an ardent believer in how sport can help young kids get some kind of direction. He is a strong well-built man who doesn’t take any nonsense.

Beyond the River’s genesis was a powerpoint presentation that Piers Cruickshanks, academic head of the Johannesburg school, Kingsmead, gave at his school assembly.

He had just competed in the 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon with Siseko Ntondini, overcoming enormous obstacles along the way. It was a perfect story for the NGO Heartlines which, like Participant Media, the American film production company founded in 2004 by Jeffrey Skoll, is dedicated to entertainment that inspires and compels social change.

Fellow canoeist Brad Fisher had alerted film makers Robbie Thorpe (producer of Vaya (2016), Tell Me Sweet Something (2015) and Material (2012)) and Craig Freimond (writer/director of Material (2012), Jozi (2010) and Gums & Noses (2004)) to the story, thinking initially it would make a good documentary, but Freimond and Robbie convinced him that it would be great material for a feature film.

According to Freimond, who wrote the screenplay together with Robbie Thorpe, “The film had a very strange genesis. My producer Robbie got a call from these canoeists, basically an older white guy and a younger black guy from very different circumstances, who got together to do the Dusi and had an amazing and pretty unusual experience.  What was essentially Piers and Siseko’s story needed more external drama, and more character drama, so we took both of those characters and essentially moved them quite far from Piers and Siseko.”

The story behind the Cruickshanks/Ntondini partnership was the creation of the Soweto Canoe and Recreation Club by members of the Dabulamanzi Canoe club, based in Emmarentia, a leafy suburb of northern Johannesburg.

In 2013, when going for his 10th gold medal in the Dusi, Cruickshanks had a disastrous race, breaking his canoe, but running the last 30 kilometers with his boat to the finish. Ntondini, then 19, had progressed through the ranks at the Development Club, and had come 11th in the same race, just missing his first gold medal. The following year’s competition would be a doubles race, and Ntondini asked Cruickshanks if they could do it together.  They started training, but Ntondini developed a stress fracture in his leg which almost ruled them out. With the intervention of a zero gravity training machine, Ntondini was able to carry on training, and so they were able to start the race, but from right at the back of the batch. Over the three-day race they managed to make up 53 places, and come seventh, winning Piers his seventh, and Siseko his first gold medal.

 

Click Here to Watch The Making of the Film

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“It’s not just for canoeing people, it’s for everyone. Everyone who goes to see it is going to have a really amazing film experience.”

Grant Swanby

“It’s a true South African story. You’ll see a lot of different sides of South Africa and the country.”

Lemogang Tsipa

“The film is quite different. I can’t think of too many films like it. It’s got a feel-good side to it, but it has also got a lot of depth. People who’ve seen it have responded to the story, the film itself, the actors, the landscapes. People will enjoy this movie.”

Craig Freimond