Swartwater is a South African, Afrikaans-language television drama series created by Hélène Truter and produced by Quizzical Pictures which tells the story of a successful urban couple, Karen and Francois le Roux, who, after the tragic death of their only child, escapes to the idyllic fishing village of Swartwater in an attempt to rescue their fragile relationship.
Here they become involved with the local community and discover the dark under currents of a community living under siege of abalone poachers and drug smugglers.
Francois and Karen le Roux's lives are shattered when Francois accidently kills their only child. Unable to cope with the attention, their grief and an impending inquest, the couple temporarily escapes to the small fishing village of Swartwater. Fearing further unwanted prying, Karen lies about their identity, setting them on a path of deceit.
But the idyllic Swartwater has its own secrets. Oom Hans Nienaber, a local journalist, who has been investigating an abalone smuggling ring, falls to his death after an argument with Jason Prince, a poacher.
A rattled Jason reports to his boss, Philip Steyn, a well-respected property developer and the mysterious Number 12 who runs an abalone and drug smuggling syndicate.
Francois is offered Oom Hans's job by Dawid, the editor of the local newspaper, the Overburger. Dawid has known Francois since his student days when Dawid was his lecturer. Francois is forced to ask Dawid to perpetuate the lie that Karen told.
Francois thrives at the Overburger as he rediscovers his passion for journalism. Karen, however, is a woman desperately trying to move forward. Overwhelmed by grief, she tries to drown herself, but is saved by Jason. A special bond develops between the poacher and the heroine.
Karen and Francois move into Hans's fisherman's cottage and it seems that they could be happy in these simple surroundings. Francois is unaware that Karen is becoming more dependent on Jason's friendship.
Francois investigates the growing tik problem in the community and finds proof that links the abalone poaching to tik manufacturing. He's put the pieces together but he's unable to identify the mysterious Number 12.
When Karen realises that Jason is also implicated, she defends his actions, insisting that he merely poaches for survival. When Francois asks her to try and glean some inside information from Jason this causes friction in the already fragile relationship.
Francois' story exposes the exact workings of the smuggling ring. Philip is beside himself with rage. He instructs Jason to shut down the entire operation for the time being.
Philip befriends Francois, keeping his enemy close. Philip's trophy wife, the beautiful but brittle Annalien, becomes obsessed with Francois.
Philip changes the M.O. of his clandestine operation while keeping close tabs on Francois. Philip's spoilt son, Werner returns after several unsuccessful attempts at studying. He wants to become a rich property developer like his father.
Philip doesn't want his son to know anything about his illegal dealings and involves him in the legitimate side. Werner is soon distracted by the feisty Faith Malinga and a romance develops. Unfortunately father and son have the same taste in women.
Francois is offered a senior position at a prominent Cape Town newspaper. Francois and Karen no longer want to leave Swartwater, but for different reasons.
Francois is hell-bent on exposing Number 12. Through Jason, Karen has become involved with the fishing community. Philip is frustrated when Francois declines the job offer.
When a young boy, high on tik, drowns while diving for abalone, the community is up in arms. Francois does an in-depth story about the incident. However, a watered-down, dismissive version is printed under his name.
Dawid, the editor becomes defensive when Francois confronts him. Dawid can't reveal that he's being blackmailed by Philip. The community reacts violently to the derogatory tone of the article.
Their anger is directed at Francois. His car is stoned and Annalien comes to his rescue and takes him home. Her attempted seduction is interrupted when Francois stumbles upon evidence that her husband Philip is in fact Number 12.
Francois realises that his expose won't be printed and he posts it on the Internet. However a damning counter-article is posted. The writer reveals that Francois and his wife have been keeping their identity a secret because Francois killed his son and they have been hiding in Swartwater to avoid prosecution.
All hell breaks loose as the press descend on the town. Karen and Francois are prisoners in the small cottage. Their child's death has become tabloid fodder. The relationship reaches its lowest point. They have no choice but to return to Johannesburg for the inquest.
As they leave, Jason follows. A road block has been set up. Jason is arrested when the police discover a stash of abalone and tik.
Francois and Karen revisit their empty house as they take the investigators through the events that led to their son's death. At the inquest it is Karen's word against Francois'. Is he guilty of murder?
Karen testifies that it was an accident. Confirmation that she has forgiven him.
Back in Swartwater, Philip visits Jason in prison. He instructs the young man to do the right thing and accept his sentence. He reminds Jason of his mom and his little girl, in Worcester, implies that they could be harmed if Jason doesn't play along.
It's a sad affair as Francois and Karen celebrate the fact that the public prosecutor will not be charging Francois with murder. Francois has to return to Swartwater, he can't allow Philip to get away with his crimes. To his surprise Karen agrees to go along with him. They are not done with Swartwater. Not yet.
Jason is found hanging in his cell. His suicide note reveals that he is Number 12.
The World of the Series
The series premieres with the accidental death of Francois (Louw Venter) and Karen's (Jana Strydom) three-year-old son Elmo. Unable to cope with the attention, their grief and an impending inquest, the couple temporarily escapes to the small fishing village of Swartwater.
Fearing further unwanted prying, Karen lies about their identity, setting them on a path of deceit.
The idyllic Swartwater has its own secrets. Oom Hans Nienaber, a local journalist who has been investigating an abalone smuggling ring, falls to his death after an argument with Jason Prince, a poacher.
A rattled Jason reports to his boss, Philip Steyn, a well-respected property developer and the mysterious Number 12 who runs an abalone and drug smuggling syndicate.
The editor of the local newspaper, The Overburger, Dawid, offers Francois a job as a journalist. Francois is forced to ask Dawid to perpetuate the lie that Karen told.
Francois thrives at the Overburger as he rediscovers his passion for journalism. Karen, however, is a woman desperately trying to move forward. Overwhelmed by grief, she tries to drown herself, but is saved by Jason.
Karen and Francois move into Hans's fisherman's cottage and it seems that they could be happy in these simple surrounding with Francois being unaware that Karen is becoming more dependent on Jason's friendship.
Swartwater was shot on location in the picturesque fishing village of Arniston in the Western Cape. Arniston presented itself as the perfect location.
Besides the breathtaking sea vistas it offers a village where fancy holiday homes are mirrored by 200-year-old, historic fishing cottages. These two societies are portrayed authentically in the series.
Karen and Francois are caught in the battle between the fisherman, who have lived in Swartwater for more than 200 years, and a ruthless developer who wants to change the town forever.
The creators of the series visited Arniston before the writing started and the series was created around what the village offered, setting the series in very uniquely South African world. Amongst these settings are an abandoned shopping centre development next to an ancient cemetery and a fishing village that has been declared a national monument.
The series stars the cream of South African actors, with Jana Strydom (Karen le Roux) and Louw Venter the main protagonists and Dirk Stoltz (Philip Steyn) as the evil mastermind plotting how to enrich him at the cost of the village. Annie Malan (Annalien Steyn) plays the part of his lonely and needy trophy wife.
Award-winning lead director, John Trengove, and the production team of Quizzical Pictures faced many challenges filming in the stormy climate of Arniston all through the stormy winter months of 2013 into the extreme heat of the summer.
Swartwater was created by Hélène Truter and produced by Quizzical Pictures, with Truter heading the writing team comprised of Percy Pretorius and Kobus Geldenhuys. The head director was John Trengrove with additional direction by Jozua Malherbe. The executive producer was Harriet Gavshon.
Francois le Roux (Louw Venter)
He is an idealist and a dreamer. He wanted to be a journalist but was caught in the rat race in Johannesburg working as an investment banker for the money to provide for his family, but he doesn't love his job.
He is overworked, too busy and frustrated that he had to give up his passion for journalism, even though he would not even admit it to himself.
He is besotted with his wife, Karen and his son Elmo. He wants another baby, because then he will have the perfect family. He needs a wake-up call and indeed it happens in the most tragic way possible when he is responsible for his son's death.
Will Francois be able to forgive himself and become the man he was meant to be?
Francois' road to recovery is rocky, and he goes through a range of emotions. He drowns himself in work.
Drinks, sleeps with another woman, he becomes jealous of his wife's friend, he breaks down, falls apart, cries for his dead son, tries to kill himself, pulls himself together, vows to clear his name and takes on his enemy head-on.
Karen le Roux (Jana Strydom)
Although Karen loves her husband and son, she does not really spend enough time with them due to a taxing professional and social life. She is a sought after interior designer and is always in control of her life and her environment.
She feels that her life is balanced and she is in charge of the future, until her son gets killed, after which she knows that she will never be the same again.
In the stark environment of Swartwater she will for the first time come face to face with the real Karen, without all her frills and trinkets. Can she carry on with life without her son? Can she ever forgive Francois or herself for what happened?
Karen has to fill a deep chasm in her soul and she reaches out to Jason and later his orphan to fill that hole, but will she loose Francois in the process?
Karen has the potential to become a free spirit, a reckless one at that.
Philip Steyn (Dirk Stoltz)
On the surface Philip is a nice guy, a charmer. A man's man who can wrap most women, old and young around his little finger.
He didn't achieve a tertiary education, but in spite of that has made it big and built himself a fortune. He is the most influential guy in Swartwater. He also seems to be very magnanimous, always donating to this and that cause or building a school or a clinic.
He was a talented rugby player who never made it to the Springbok team and that, together with the fact that he never went to varsity is a huge chip on his shoulder.
He has a mean streak and a short temper. He needs to prove himself as he never feels quite good enough. He is greedy and craves power. He will do anything for money.
Philip is married to Annalien, who used to be the most beautiful woman in town. The trophy wife. He abuses her emotionally and verbally. He is not faithful to her.
He loves his son Werner, but believes that he is weak and should be toughened up.
He is ruthless and a street fighter who does not trust anyone. His fortune is built on illegal activities such as abalone poaching and drug manufacturing.
Annalien Steyn (Annie Malan)
Ex-model, desperately clinging onto her good looks. She grew up poor, which is something she would rather forget and she promised herself that she will never be poor again, that is why she married Philip Steyn, choosing money above love.
She is a victim. She is fragile after years of being dependant on Philip and suffering his emotional and verbal abuse. You get the idea that she might crack if pushed too far.
A beautiful, but desperate housewife. Brittle with a penchant for champagne no matter what time of day. She is lonely in the big house and doesn't really have friends.
She pretends to keep herself busy with the finer things in life and it doesn't matter that she has no taste but she can afford to buy it.
Philip lends her the money to open a gift and coffee shop which is really a front for his abalone poaching. She hates herself for not having the guts to leave Philip.
Stuck in a loveless marriage, she becomes obsessed with Francois. She's a complex character and beneath the beautiful exterior lurks a woman who could kill if she had to.
Werner Steyn (Vilje Maritz)
He's the best of his father and his mother. Good-looking, easy going, carefree, talented, charming, intelligent.
A playboy with no desire to waste his time on studying. Into surfing, girls, bikes and music. Not too worried about his future – his parents are rich. Hasn't decided what he wants from life until he meets Faith who is his first serious relationship. And it becomes very serious.
As he finds his only personality he will realize what his father is involved in and they will clash more and more.
The question is: will Werner become another Philip or become his own man?
Elizabeth Malinga (Harriet Manamela)
Salt of the earth. A good person. She is honest, perhaps too honest for some people's liking. She is hardworking and religious. She works as a domestic in the Steyn house and later she works at Annalien's shop.
She's an optimist with strong moral values, but she's learnt not to trust the rich and their empty promises. She and Karen become firm friends. She is very proud of her daughter, Faiths achievement and she loves her husband and is very protective of him and his health.
Elizabeth has a big heart and cares deeply for the Swartwater community.
Daniel Malinga (Lekoane Phasumane)
Daniel lost the use of his legs in a building accident while working for Philip Steyn and has been in a wheelchair ever since. Steyn gave him a job at the harbour and helped him to buy one of the fisherman's cottages. As a result Daniel feels beholden to Philip Steyn who also employs his wife.
He has a great sense of humour and refuses to be hampered by his handicap. He adores his wife and children.
He is deeply religious, very strict and won't tolerate the use of drugs or abalone poaching. There's a slight possibility that Daniel could regain the use of his legs - but the family can't afford the medical fees needed.
Faith Malinga (Nolly Meje)
Daniel and Elizabeths's eldest daughter, she is bright and matriculated with five distinctions. As a result she got a bursary to study – she chose journalism and now serves an internship at the local newspaper, also organised by Philip Steyn.
She's ambitious and doesn't want to end up like her mother. She's the new generation – not as conservative as her parents although she was brought up with good values. But she's a tough cookie and outspoken. She will do what it takes to get ahead in life. But will she be able to keep it up?
She doesn't plan to fall in love with Werner Steyn, whom she regards as just another bored rich white boy.
Jason Prince (Danny Ross)
A survivor. Charming, handsome. We can't help but like him, in spite of his flaws. He wants a better life for his daughter, Amulet who was abandoned by her mother and now in foster care. His biggest motivation for poaching is to get to a space where he can afford for her to live with him.
Philip Steyn is using him and although he can see the danger of what they are involved in he is trapped. He looks up to Oom Hans – the father he never had. He's very loyal to the Malinga family.
He saves Karen's life and an unusual bond develops between them.
Dawid Huyshamen (Andre Odendaal)
A talented and capable editor. He was Francois' lecturer at university. He comes across as a beaten man with a nervous disposition. He stutters. He is a bit of a weakling but deep down he is a good soul.
Dawid was involved in a hit and run accident while under the influence of alcohol. Philip saved him by arranging for the police docket to disappear and thus have a hold on Dawid.
Until he can get rid of that sword hanging over him he will remain a nervous weakling.