Stellenbosch is a Dutch drama television mini-series created by Jacqueline Epskamp and based on her novel of the same name which follows the Keppel family, Dutch immigrants to South Africa, and how history left its mark on their lives as they cope with living in a post-Apartheid era.
The series originally premiered in the Netherlands on 4 November, 2007. There are seven hour-long episodes in the series.
Stellenbosch premiered in South Africa on SABC3 on Thursday 2 April 2009, at 21h00. It is in Dutch and English with English subtitles.
The mini-series Stellenbosch is about a Dutch family that immigrated to South Africa in the 1950s. The story starts in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela as president and ends eight years later in 2002.
While the world changes at breakneck speed in South Africa, we follow the Keppel family, their children and grandchildren, through the ups and downs of life and see how fate – or is it history? – has left its mark on the lives of three generations and how the characters wrestle to escape from this.
While the story is set in both the Netherlands and South Africa, the farm called Arkadia in the vicinity of Stellenbosch in the Western Cape of South Africa is the central location in the series.
It is also the spot where the fate of the Keppel family is sealed and where their future will be decided too.
As in a classic family saga, there are different storylines that come together in the last episode. There is the story of the crime once committed for which forgiveness has to be begged; the story of the true love between the eldest son Henk Jr and the pretty Shelley; the story of the battle for the farm and the story of Henk’s obsession to make the best wine in the world.
Protagonist Henk Jr and his sister Betty are continually confronting each other with their incompatible interests while they both really want to do what is best.
Guilt and penance, love and death - all these storylines come together with one question: who has a right to the land of Arkadia?
Episode 1: The Year of Mandela
Years ago, Henk Keppel left South Africa, the country where he grew up, because the apartheid system made it impossible for him to realise his ambition to create and market a top-quality wine.
He now lives in Holland, in a small town, and makes his living as a wine buyer for local restaurants.
On his daughter Marie’s 21st birthday he meets Shelley, a black South African woman who works as a nurse. There is an instant attraction between them, which Henk finds hard to explain – but he knows that it will be impossible to return to his contentment with the comfortable routines of his life in Holland.
Episode 2: The Prodigal Son
His return to South Africa and the reunion with Bernard Castel, an old neighbour, who begins to treat him like a substitute son, rekindle Henk’s dream to produce a superior wine.
In order to achieve his goal, he needs to gain control of the family farm, Arkadia – but this is made difficult by David Verwey, the black manager of the business, who was appointed by Henk’s sister Betty.
Henk discovers that the beautiful Shelley is connected to a dramatic event in his past – as are the Castels, Arkadia’s neighbours.
Episode 3: Loose Ends
Henk is plagued by the return of half-forgotten memories of a terrible event, which involved his father (Henk Sr) and possibly himself. Feelings he can no longer trust his memory, he leaves for Holland, to go and demand the truth from his ageing and increasingly demented father.
Meanwhile, Betty is also fighting a battle with the truth: it turns out that her past activities within the ANC have had a downside.
Episode 4: Reunion
The unanswered questions surrounding Henk Jr's past (which are related to a case of missing children) are starting to get the better of him.
Marie takes a trip to Belgium with her partner Vincent, to visit her mother, who she hardly knows. On the way back she has an accident, which has unexpected consequences for the entire Keppel family and which also, mysteriously, begins to unlock the secrets of the past.
Betty builds a new life for herself in Cape Town, but continues to fight to get Arkadia back. Henk Sr. is put in a nursing home by his wife – the home where Shelley works.
Episode 5: Compromises
Now that one of the missing children has been found, the search focuses on the other, a boy called Andile.
At Arkadia, Henk Jr. is getting further and further into debt. It seems that bankruptcy is inevitable, until he is made an offer by a supermarket. This will allow Henk Jr. to save the farm, but he will have to give up his special wine and produce only large quantities of mediocre wines.
Kishore, a Hindustani South African who has long been in love with Betty, has become a millionaire and is able to surprise Henk Jr. with a different offer.
After going through a traumatic experience, Betty decides to give her life a different twist.
Episode 6: The Harvest
Betty and Kishore have a lavish wedding. The grape harvest at Arkadia looks like it might be better than ever.
The much-craved superior wine looks like it will be a success, but the farm does not belong to Henk Jr. anymore, and when disturbing details emerge around the case of Andile’s disappearance he has a nervous breakdown and returns to Holland.
Marie decides to stay in South Africa. To her surprise, Betty finds true love in the marriage she started on such rational grounds.
Episode 7: Arkadia
The Arkadia wine has been entered in the ‘Veritas Double Gold’ contest, but by now, all the gruesome details around the case of the missing children have become public knowledge. So it seems that, again, all the hard work has led to nothing.
However, when a bottle of the special wine reaches Bernard Castel in Belgium, Henk Jr. feels able to resign himself his fate. Betty is finally able to honour her promise to the Arkadia workers to hand over the farm to them, so the future of Arkadia can now begin to take shape.
All members of the Keppel family have found love at last, except for Henk Jr. He is left wondering whether there is any possibility of a future for him and Shelley.