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The humorous account of life in boarding school is the main focus of Spud, a South African-made movie recently released in Australia. Incorporating some delightfully eccentric characters, the film features British actor John Cleese.
Perth-based and South African-born teenager, Troye Sivan plays the lead role of John 'Spud' Milton, who shares the story of his life during the first year of boarding school. The film is based on the book of the same name, which was written by author, actor, playwright and producer, John van de Ruit.
Initially achieving success in South Africa, the book, and its sequels, all written in a diary-type format, have since been released in a number of countries around the world. Spud is regarded as South Africa's most successful and popular book in the country's publishing history.
It is set in 1990, the year that Nelson Mandela was released from prison, but the politics play an insignificant role in the story. The focus is on Spud and his tales of illegal night swimming, performing as Oliver Twist in the school music, his interactions with girls, enduring boarding school and his eccentric family members. Also of significance are Spud's fellow students, known by nicknames including Gecko, Rain Man, Mad Dog and Rambo.
The movie is likely to attract South Africans who are familiar with the Spud books, but Troye Sivan points out that the film's themes are universal. "The movie is refreshing and has appeal for everyone. It is the story of a boy who could be in a British or Australian boarding school for boys."
The complexity of the movie is described by director Donovan Marsh who says that he wanted the film "to stand out because of its odd and quirky honesty".
I wanted to create a mad and humorous world, but a world that you could believe in and identify with," he says. "I wanted to achieve the classic one-two of making the audience laugh…and then making them cry. It's a delicate balancing act."
In short, Spud is about love, friendship and complete insanity.