Producer Trish Lake is developing White Knuckles, a psychological drama set among middle and lower middle class white Afrikaans who live in fortified residences and gated communities, keeping the outside world at bay and becoming increasingly paranoid and isolated.

The director is Pia Marais, a South African/Swedish woman who grew up in South Africa and now lives in Berlin.

The writer is Roger Monk, who was originally inspired by a true story that happened years ago that was the basis of the Cathy Henkel-directed documentary The Man Who Stole My Mother's Face, which won the Tribeca Film Festival in 2004.

Lake aims to shoot the film in Queensland and South Africa, possibly as a co-production with South Africa. Monk is a co-producer, as is Dan Lake.

“White Knuckles is purely fiction, set in contemporary South Africa, but it does explore the sort of themes that were in the original story,” she tells IF.

The protagonist is Miriam Swan, a 28-year-old South African stuntwoman who lives on the Gold Coast and carries a lot of scars. After hearing her widowed mother Judith has been brutally attacked and left for dead she returns home for the first time in a decade to nurse her back to health.

Miriam discovers her mother was also raped but was too afraid to press charges and that the perpetrator is a young white man her mother knows. In order to seek justice she must take on a community that’s notorious for closing ranks to protect its own.

Trish and Pia will pitch the project (originally entitled Dance for Me) at the inaugural Paris Coproduction Village to be held June 12-13, run by the organisers of Les Arcs European Film Festival.

The producer met the director last year at the Berlin Film Festival where her first English-language film, Layla Fourie, set in South Africa and starring Rayna Campbell and August Diehl, screened in competition.

“That she grew up in South Africa influenced my choice to attach her to the project so it was terrific when she read the script and liked it,” Lake says.

“There is certainly a lot of interest in Pia's next film. She is a director to watch in Europe where there is an emphasis now on women directors, especially ones that are as talented and experienced as Pia.”

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