When writer/director Julian Shaw was fifteen years old he saw a show in Sydney, Australia that would change his life forever. It was just one man on-stage: South African political satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys. Uys is a famed anti-Apartheid crusader turned AIDS awareness activist, and is the alter ego of South Africa’s ‘most famous white woman’ Evita Bezuidenhout. In his Sydney show, Uys had talked with passion and irresistible black humour about a new apartheid – one where the South African government’s lack of leadership on health issues left a young generation vulnerable to a virus without a cure…
Shaw approached Uys after the show and asked if he would be open to the idea of having a documentary film made about him. When the famed performer said yes Julian had all the encouragement he needed - and true to his word the result is ‘Darling! The Pieter-Dirk Uys Story’ a heart-warming, rousing and deeply intimate biography that always balances politics with the personal.
During Apartheid Pieter-Dirk Uys put the worst truths about the South African government into the lip-stick smeared mouth of his most famous creation Evita Bezuidenhout - a drag act so seamless and endearing that it has become a national icon. Today Pieter is fighting something more pressing than the fading legacy of Apartheid – it is HIV/AIDS, and it is tearing his country apart.
Uys has presented a free ‘AIDS awareness entertainment’ to a million school children. Darling! goes on the road with Uys around South Africa, revealing powerful moments from his presentation. When the young people in the audience speak to the filmmaker their words are a powerful indication of the effect the performer is having on their lives.
Woven through these moving performances is a candid account of Pieter’s life – as he explores the intense pressures within his own Afrikaans/Jewish family that have sustained and spurred his creativity. Uys offers frank reflections on his past and present, observing at one point ‘nobody knows anything about me, nobody knows anything about my private life and nobody comes into my home with a camera – except you.’
Darling! features a poignant and laugh-out-loud sequence involving Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and penetrating commentary from the likes of Zachie Achmat. Even Nelson Mandela makes a memorable appearance, as these luminaries consider the importance of Pieter’s life work to the ongoing transformation of South African society.
The final result is a startling document of one man’s life-long mission and an unforgettable portrait of the power of individual will.