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Va. Beach man makes film as gift for South Africa
By Mike Holtzclaw
April 30 2003
He made the film for South Africa, but now Cris Krusen is ready to show it to America.
"Final Solution" - a film about the final days of Apartheid - premieres on PBS on Thursday. Krusen, who lives in Virginia Beach and runs his production company out of a Norfolk office, is happy to see the film get its first wide audience in this country after successful appearances at a handful of film festivals.
"It's a good feeling to know that something you've worked so hard on is going to get an outlet like PBS," Krusen said. "You don't get a lot of audience feedback from TV, but hopefully people will be touched by the message of the film. It's exciting to think that something I've done will get out in front of a lot of people."
The film, about one man's spiritual transformation, has already made an impact in South Africa. Krusen received a warm welcome when "Final Solution" was screened at a film festival there. When it aired on South African television four months ago, he said, it drew an audience of 19 million viewers, almost half the country's population.
"I'll never forget the people who spoke with me at the festival in South Africa," Krusen said. "One South African Indian gentleman came to me with a big smile, with tears in his eyes, and he thanked me for the film. He said, 'Everyone in South Africa must see it.' That made me feel good."
Since then, it has played at the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville, and it won awards at festivals in Houston and Indianapolis.
This is the first time Krusen, 50, has made a film in English. A native of Florida, he has previously made Spanish docudramas and feature films that have primarily aired in Mexico and Latin America.
He first got the idea for a film about the final days of Apartheid in 1988. Four years later, looking for a real-life person on whom to base his film, he began writing to organizations in South Africa.
"What I really wanted was to find someone like Saul of Tarses, who was a persecutor who transformed himself and became the Apostle Paul," Krusen said. "I wanted that kind of metamorphosis."
He got about 20 responses, including one directing him to a man who had relocated to Richmond. That was Gerrit Wolfaardt, a former paramilitary who idolized Adolf Hitler and envisioned a "final solution" to the blacks in South Africa patterned after Hitler's persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany.
After meeting with Wolfaardt, Krusen made his first trip to South Africa to interview other subjects, but in the end he came back to Wolfaardt as the subject of his film. He was fascinated by the story of a man who had changed himself from a violent racial separatist to a tolerant man who came to embrace people of both races.
Wolfaardt, Krusen said, was changed by two books - the Bible and Alan Paton's "Cry the Beloved Country" - and by two friends. One was a girlfriend whose more liberal worldview forced him to re-evaluate his own beliefs, and the other was a black pastor who also challenged Wolfaardt's way of thinking.
"Final Solution" is a dramatic feature based on Wolfaardt's life, though Krusen changed the timeline somewhat in order to put his transformation against the backdrop of Apartheid's fall. He shot the film in Cape Town, South Africa, three years ago.
"In truth, I made this film for South Africa," Krusen said. "It's my own way of saying that there is a way forward. There is a way to overcome differences. And the way is reconciliation."
Mike Holtzclaw can be reached at 757-928-6479 or by e-mail at email@example.com. The Daily Press is located in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
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