The journey of a man who faced death and rose beyond all expectations.
Once I personally heard about this incredible story where a man had been ridden over by a 7 ton truck and survived, it immediately irked my interest. It sounded surreal, yet it was true and undoubtedly I wanted to learn more about the strength and the story of Barend Liebenberg. Desmond Denton, an incredible award-winning Director, put a small team together to join both himself and an awaiting team in Porterville to film this incredible journey of a man that many people would be in awe of- to witness such strong character, hope and belief for a brighter day.
Desmond Denton, Megan Culligan and myself Mandy Kotzé set out toward Porterville on Friday the 4th of September admiring the beauty the Cape had to offer along the way. We spent our time reviewing Barend’s incredible journey and discussing the weekend ahead of us. As we arrived to the quaint town of Porterville we were met with Barend’s sweetly natured wife who showed us to our sleeping chambers and shortly after, we spent the night planning the weekend’s schedule. Barend, his wife and their dedicated team showed an excitement and optimism that was infectious and it was easily going to be a memorable shoot
Our call time was set for early the Saturday morning, as we met Barend and his team at 5:30 am to film his scenic cycling shots and capture the beauty of the surroundings of Porterville, and what they had to offer. It felt like the kind of scenery that takes you back to your childhood, a place that reminds one of their roots and having the ability to use it as your own personal playground. I sensed that this may have been how Barend viewed his life and his prospects for the future before the accident took place. Therefore it served as both an amazing symbolism to the start of our journey on set, in correspondence with that of Barend’s hope for the future as a young man. To myself personally, as Im sure most would feel, it was a day that served for all to remember and reflect on both their own lives, as well as the time they had toward the future.
Witnessing Barend on a bike with a broken chain on a beautiful mountain, resulted in many of us with a feeling of concern as the road on the mountain that was selected for filming seemed very dangerous, yet Barend showed no such fear. He went about it as if he were merely taking a therapeutic Sunday cycle; it was something to behold as it captured the essence of his comfort on a bicycle. It felt part of him and seemed as though being on any bicycle was second nature to him. It takes a certain kind of trust between a person and their passion, to establish a bond where no matter the occurrence, that bond will remain their for eternity. Despite the many great shots captured that day, my personal favourite will remain the one that visionaries try to capture through film. An evoking emotion or realisation that is captured and portrayed to others; Barend may not have known it, but he captured an emotion that day and portrayed my passion as a bond to me.
Our following location was set at Barend’s childhood home just shy off of the main road in Porterville. A beautiful, large landscape that reminded me of the times I played at my ‘ouma’s’ house in Bloemfontein. Huge gardens surrounded a beautiful country home that revealed many happy memories floating around in the atmosphere. One could feel the family driven environment one were setting foot into and it was another moment to behold. Filming the family scenes and Barend’s childhood montage, teleported one to moments years ago. It gave you that warm sense of comfort that one would only receive once you are back at your grandmother’s house and she is forcing tea and food into your system; it is that perfect moment where you know you are home and at the heart of your family. The shots may have been recreations of what happened years ago but I believe the nature and essence of that feeling was captured and more importantly felt by all on set.
Our next location was at the local hospital in Porterville, where we would film the after effects of Barend’s tragic accident. The mood instantly changed, at least for me; it was as if the air became thicker, harder to breathe. It felt darker, more morbid although this was beneficial as it would make the scenes we were about to film, that much more authentic. We were joined by more enthusiastic and wonderful people introduced as part of the team and it was well known by everyone that it was a great dynamic of different personalities coming together. Barend was transported to three different hospitals after his accident, and we therefore had a challenging task at hand to reveal the three different stages of his time in medical care. To our advantage we had a great hair and make up team, not only bringing a unique energy to set but a great creative mindset that allowed for the challenge to become an objective that was easily reached. Everyone worked well together to capture the pain, resilience and fight that Barend endured and pushed through to give what I feel to be a special element on camera.
Our last day would be the most important experience of our weekend shoot and it started on a beautiful Sunday morning; we were met with the “accident scene”. This would be the moment that changed Barend, his family and all those that witnessed or were told about this man’s tragic occurrence. We were lucky enough that Barend, his wife and their team were able to secure the very same truck that built Barend and his loved ones new challenges and a new awakening. I felt that it gave the moment a more captivating experience as it was very “close to home” for those involved and made the time that much more emotional. We caught the attention of the locals of Porterville and the enthusiasm of the people of the small town brought a comfort to set that contrasted deeply against the horrific scale of events that occurred almost 23 years prior. We were able to film the needed scenes of the accident with ease as we had become our own little family on set surrounded with newly found friends that made the journey that much more special to the the team as a whole.
If I were to take anything away from the experience, as Im sure many would agree, one was almost sad to leave as the journey had come to an end. However, speaking for myself, I was able to take something greater away from the weekend’s shoot as I felt both a gratitude towards the life that I was given and an appreciation for other’s that have a strength, I could never have felt possible if it weren’t for meeting such amazing people. I would like to thank everyone that was part of this amazing journey that weekend; Barend you are one of the strongest people I have ever come across and your will to live through the worst of times is beyond inspirational. I have never met someone with such optimism and great will, someone that was able to take all of the tragedy and turn it into a faith that will prove to inspire all those around you. Liezl, you are an exceptional woman. Your family is so beautiful and that can only attain from being the caring, strong independent woman that you are. Meeting you gave me an amazing sense of a solid support structure and a woman I take to my own heart. Your love for all around you and for all you put your mind to proves to prosper you to reach any life goal you strive to achieve. I would like to thank both Barend and his wife Liezl on behalf of the Imagenheart team as it was an absolutely inspiring time for all of us.
A last extension of gratitude goes out to Barend, Liezl, their team and the people of Porterville; It was an absolute pleasure to be part of something so great and with so many inspiring people. We will never forget this shoot as it was something special; leaving Porterville and heading back to Cape Town, I saw the road back in a different light as to the one I experienced heading there and that alone told me how greatly one man’s story can change any life.
Find out more: www.swordproductions.co.za