Life, death, friendship … and how to make a zombie movie.

The heart-warming film Nul is Nie Niks Nie tells the story of a young boy’s last wish – to shoot a zombie movie – and the friends who set out to help him realise his dream.

Sometimes, while you’re running away from death, you find friendship along the way. Drikus is on the cusp of teen-hood and dreams of making his own zombie movie. He has a lot of time to dream – the latest round of chemotherapy means he’s bed-ridden most of the time. Meanwhile, 13-year old maths-whizz Hoender (who raises chickens and sells their eggs for pocket money), has yet to come to terms with his dad’s death. He could use a couple of friends, some confidence and self-esteem. Together with odd-girl-out Chris, they set out to fulfil Drikus’ crazy dream and together they discover that zero isn’t nothing – it’s right in the middle of positive and negative – the pure symbol of possibility. Along the way, Drikus’ determination and love for life unlock new energy and hope in the community as the sleepy rural town flickers back to life.

Overprotective parents and children’s dreams

As Hoender, Drikus and Chris slowly become friends, and as they start to depend on each other as they film their zombie movie, they start to escape from their mundane existence and worry less about bullies, Drikus’ overprotective parents or Hoender’s reclusive mother, who refuses to leave the house.

“Like the terminally-ill teenagers in The Fault in our Stars, the characters in Nul is Nie Niks Nie show viewers that a short life can still be a good life. In-between all the pranks there is a profound, realistic portrayal of teenage tragedy,” says Helen Kuun of Indigenous Film Distribution. “I believe that stories have the ability to change lives,” says director Morné du Toit, “to bring hope where there was none, and life to where there was none.”

This beautiful, moving 2017 Afrikaans film (with English subtitles) strikes a balance between art film and adventurous youth story. The film isn’t preachy, but still has subtle life lessons for both parents and young people about the value of friendship, reaching for your dreams, finding courage and the perseverance to push through to achieve what you believe in. Perhaps the most important message of the film is to stop being held captive by the past, stop fearing the future, and instead live for it.

Here are four facts about Nul is Nie Niks Nie:

  1. The movie is based on the book “Oor ‘n motorfiets, ‘n zombiefliek en lang getalle wat deur elf gedeel kan word” by much-loved Afrikaans youth author Jaco Jacobs.
  1. More than 400 kids auditioned for the three lead roles of Martin (Jaden van der Merwe) known as “Hoender”, Chris (Daniah de Villiers), and terminally ill Drikus (Pieter Louw).
  1. Apart from the three young leads, the diverse, stellar and highly-experienced cast includes Morné Visser, Marisa Drummond, Antoinette Louw, Kim Syster, Bradley Olivier, Francois Jacobs, Rafiq Jajbhay and June van Merch as Aunt Hantie, Hoender’s most loyal customer and a real mother hen.
  1. In the movie, the three friends live in the same town, but while the location for Hoender’s house was in Walkerville, near Johannesburg, most of the movie was filmed in Waterval Boven in Mpumalanga. Director Morné du Toit explained in an interview with The Writing Studio that “what Waterval Boven had to offer was this beautiful landscape which in many ways represents life and hope, but the town itself is the direct opposite … [with] many of the buildings in need of repair or paint.” As the story develops, a “dead town” slowly blossoms to life.

Watch Nul is nie Niks Nie on Saturday 15 June on kykNET (144) at 20:00
Not at home? Livestream on DStv Now when you’re on the move.