An ex-firefighter in Cape Town is forced to fight for his life after being accused of murdering his wife. As he struggles to survive, connections are revealed between his past, the origin of his PTSD, the mysterious death of his wife, and a government conspiracy with terrifying implications.
A high-tension, politically-charged action thriller shot and wrapped safely during the pandemic, INDEMNITY is the latest from Cape Town production studio Gambit Films, producers of the hit Netflix series Blood & Water and instrumental in bringing South African genre cinema into the mainstream. The film marks the feature debut from writer/director Travis Taute, co-writer of Nosipho Dumisa’s award-winning NUMBER 37 and co-director of the short that preceded it by the same name, as well as a writer and director on Blood & Water.
Hi Travis, how are you? Are you excited about Indemnity being part of Fantasia Fest 2021? How do you feel about that? It’s so awesome.
Travis- It is so awesome. To be honest with you, I’m so happy. I don’t think I could have asked for a better place for the film to premiere. Fantasia has always been so regarded as one of the biggest genre festivals around the world. I felt honored that the film had been selected to amongst this year’s crop of titles that are in competition. Mitch, the festival director has been an incredible advocate for the film. It’s fantastic, I’m so happy. I feel blessed and humbled.
(Jarrid arrived in the zoom meeting)
Travis, I wanted to ask how this idea manifested for you? You don’t always see a lot of films that show so much truth for the firemen, and mental health in regards to PTSD.
Travis- Thank you, I’m glad that was your experience. This film is so personal to me. I think we deal with quite a few sensitive topics. A few years ago, I was doing some light reading about soldiers that have returned from the Afganistan was, and how they battled to readapt to daily life. That term, “PTSD” just kept coming up over and over again. I thought it was so interesting and it really sent me down this rabbit hole. There are over 8 million people in South Africa suffering from PTSD. For various reasons, our country is constantly in turmoil. I started to do research and talking to the firefighters. You kind of understand the perspective of the policemen and you get why their there at a crime scene. The same with a paramedic and they are dealing with someone who is injured and alive.
The firemen and the fire department are there to clean up what is left of the vehicles or they try to extract someone from a vehicle. What most people don’t know is that firemen are there and if it is a gruesome scene, the firemen are responsible to clean up that scene in terms of the human remains. That is so hectic and I wanted to know why no one talks about it, and why is that not a bigger topic of discussion. If you think about the amount of cops and paramedics that have been portrayed onscreen, I found that fire fighters for some reason, even though they’re the back bone of society, they don’t get that much credit. They don’t get the screen time or the air time that they deserve for putting their lives at risk. On a personal level for me as I went down this rabbit hole, I noticed the way men in general deal with mental health, or the lack of dealing with it. It’s often considered weak to ask for help or admit that you have a problem. That’s a culture that is being perpetuated by men based on what we’ve seen for years. I wanted to change that and have people open up more. I felt the best way to do it was through a genre that I love.
That’s amazing, and that is true. I sort of knew that about the clean up situation. You don’t really see a lot of true dedication to what the firemen have to do. It’s incredible and yet sad in a way. I don’t think a lot of people do know that.
Travis- Yes, it’s quite something.
Jarrid, did you have to do anything special to prepare? You did such an amazing job in the film.
Jarrid- Yes, I think anytime you do an action film there will be some challenges and physicality. We did a lot of special things and the production company spent a lot of time and attention to detail. We did a lot of stunts; we did a lot of things that were life-threatening but it was thrilling. [Jarrid cut out due to technically difficulties.] There were South African actors and South African stuntmen. We all came together and all the elements surrounding the film. That makes it so special when you’re able to put all those human elements into such a big action film. Ultimately that’s what makes the film so special for all of us.
Did you have to pull from any personal experiences to go through the PTSD aspect or did you do any type of research? This is such an intense film.
Jarrid- I always believe that when I’m playing a role, I think the very first thing I do is find that connection. I think that’s one of the first fundamental things. I think sometimes you may not connect with the character on a personal level but you connect with the story. But, with Theo specifically, I made a point to find something within myself that I could connect with. It took a while because when you’re dealing with PTSD and trauma, I don’t know, I sit here and think, “am I suffering from something? I don’t know?” That was so difficult to be sure of. When I did decide to look stuff up, I started watching video clips and I was reading everything online. I didn’t really understand but I could see what it does. The one thing that didn’t click with me was reading it, the scientific aspect. I stayed away from that. I think what was important for me was to see what it does. That’s what connect with me when I can see things. You do want to have an understanding and you want to treat it with dignity and understanding.
The one thing that kept coming back to me was growing up as a colored boy in South Africa, and in the ghettos of South Africa. I’m absolutely privileged to say that I grew up in the ghettos of South Africa. The one thing that is constant there is toxic masculinity. I’ve been there and growing up as a colored boy in South Africa, you’re constantly confronted with the pleasure of having to be a man. Being a man is being physically capable to do things, to endure, you must not cry or show emotion. That’s not what it means to be a man. That is also universal. That was constantly there and you are told not to show emotion because if you show emotion that reflects as fear and weakness so you’re constantly told to be hard, to be a man. If you show emotion, you’re not a man. The one thing when I look at my family’s life. My father struggled with a lot of things because he was part of the South African police force. He suffered from so many things that I had no idea about. You think about things when you’re dealing with PTSD. I thought this is something big and I wanted to be a part of it. I think once I had all those elements, I realized there is a big problem. I want to be part of the change. I want to be a part of something that sparks a conversation that changes a deep-rooted generational problem. I think that’s what makes films such a beautiful art.
I agree and you did an incredible job with this. That’s amazing about your father because you were able to see some of that.
Jarrid- Thank you. It’s only after we finished the film, I realized my father was a crazy man and I love him to death but he was a crazy man, and he suffered. He suffered from a lot of things. I don’t think he knows that he’s suffered. I think that is what makes it so beautiful, my life as an actor has allowed me to explore and see different things in life. You could never buy that. It’s also allowed me to deal with certain things. It’s such a special thing.
How did you prepare for this film Travis, and what was it like working with everyone?
Travis- I was very lucky. I was blessed with an amazing cast and crew. Jarrid trained for three months in preparation for this film. He did intense physical conditioning, fight choreography. It was a brutal experience. He really did an amazing job preparing for the role. Jarrid did every single stunt including the stunt where he was hanging out of a twenty-story window. That scene is one hundred percent real. He was game and so committed to doing everything himself. I wanted to do a lot of the fights. I was blessed to have such a committed lead actor. In South Africa there has been a limit to the kinds of films we can produce. We wanted to do something that could stand up with all the rest of the international titles. It was a combination of experienced veterans and newcomers. It was amazing. I enjoyed the process and I can’t wait for the next one.
I thank you Travis and Jarrid. It was a blast talking to both of you and an honor. You are both so talented. Thank you so much.
Travis- Thank you.
Jarrid- Thank you.