Gaia debuts on Showmax this Halloween, 31 October 2022. The breakout South African horror film won director of photography Jorrie van der Walt the 2021 Zeiss Cinematography Award at South by Southwest (SXSW) – widely considered one of the five most prestigious film festivals globally.
Gaia follows an injured forest ranger on a routine mission (SAFTA nominee Monique Rockman from Nommer 37) who is saved by two off-the-grid survivalists (Silwerskerm winner Carel Nel from 4 Mure and SAFTA nominee Alex van Dyk from Die Stropers). But what starts out as a welcome rescue grows more suspicious as the son and his renegade father reveal a cultish devotion to the forest. When their cabin is attacked by a strange being, it’s clear there is a far greater threat in this unrelenting wilderness.
Set in the Tsitsikamma National Park, Gaia won Best Film, Director, Editor, Sound Design, and Hair and Makeup at Silwerskerm, as well as Best International Film at Trieste Science + Fiction Festival, among other accolades.
Gaia was released in cinemas, on Hulu, and via video on demand in North America last year by Decal, a joint venture between Neon and Bleecker Street. The ecological horror has an 85% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Decider hailing it as “a standout at South By Southwest” and describing the film as a “psychedelic-mushroom Cronenberg-via-del-Toro eco-body-horror creepy-creature freakout … visually potent … strange, beautiful and disgusting.”
Gaia is a breakthrough for director Jaco Bouwer, who was up for Best Director and won Best TV Drama at the 2022 SAFTAs for 4 Mure, a five-part kykNET series set in the same hotel room, but with different stories in different genres in each episode. 4 Mure is now available to binge on Showmax.
Variety even likened Gaia to another South African film that made waves internationally, District 9. “As a stylistic calling card for Bouwer, it portends bigger things and bigger budgets, showcasing a quivery facility with atmosphere and crafty technical nous that recalls his compatriot Neill Blomkamp at the outset of his career.” Variety went on to include Gaia in their roundup of the Best Horror Movies of 2021, calling it “the most down-and-dirty entry into the year’s dense ‘Don’t mess with Mother Nature’ canon.”
Bouwer is currently helming Spinners, a Showmax co-production with CANAL+, which will launch in 2024.
A week into filming Gaia, production was halted due to the outbreak of Covid. They only resumed shooting three months later.
“Suddenly what was fiction became a strange form of reality and our pre-apocalyptic film started to resonate more with cast and crew,” says Bouwer. “We experience searing grief and horror when the collapse flickers into view… I don’t think the performances in Gaia would’ve had the same emotional undercurrent if it wasn’t for the pandemic and its interruption into our work.”
That sense of fear and uncertainty has resonated around the world, helping Gaia make Best Horror of 2021 lists everywhere from IGN to Rotten Tomatoes to Thrillist.
Recommending Gaia for fans of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy and its Annihilation adaptation, Austin Chronicle calls Gaia “a masterpiece of socially aware eco-horror.” Mashable India hails it as “a visual masterpiece… A taut thriller… Unlike anything, I’ve seen before… A must-watch.” And /Film hails it as “skin-crawling”, “dazzling” and “a welcome addition to the environmental horror canon.”
RogerEbert.com calls Gaia “a trip and a half…” adding, “Gaia has a lot to say about humanity’s destruction of the environment, about the ‘tipping point’ we have collectively reached… but the film says it with creativity, mad flights of imagination, and even humor… It’s a thought-provoking and disturbing experience…”
Celebrating Gaia as one of the top 10 horror films of 2021, Forbes says, “Gaia boasts strong performances, a massive menace with a big impact, and incredible tension throughout. The realization of the threat in question, namely its effects on human bodies, is one of the most haunting images of the year in ANY horror entry.”
Gaia’s impressive credits list also includes four SAFTA winners – screenwriter Tertius Kapp (Dis Ek, Anna, Die Spreeus), editor Leon Visser (Die Spreeus, Die Boekklub), composer Pierre-Henri Wicomb (4 Mure, Die Spreeus) and costume designer Mariechen Voosloo (4 Mure) – as well as SAFTA-nominated production designer Rocco Pool (Kanarie, Recipes for Love and Murder). Anthony Oseyemi (Resident Alien, Four Fingers For Marseilles) co-stars.
So don’t miss out on one of the most celebrated South African films of this decade; bring Halloween closer to home this year by streaming Gaia on Showmax from 31 October 2022.
Watch and embed the trailer:
Add Gaia to your Halloween watchlist: