Proteus (film)

Proteus is a film by Canadian director John Greyson. Although the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2003, it did not have a general theatrical release until 2005.

Set in 18th century South Africa, the film dramatizes the true story of Claas Blank (Rouxnet Brown) and Rijkhaart Jacobsz (Neil Sandilands), two prisoners on Robben Island who were executed for sodomy in 1735. Their relationship also had a racial component, as Jacobsz was a white Dutchman, while Blank was a black Khoi. The film also stars Shaun Smyth as Virgil Niven, a Scottish botanist who befriends Blank for his knowledge of South African flora, but may in fact have his own sexual interest in Blank.

The film also attempts to explore unanswered questions, such as why prison officials tolerated the relationship for a full decade before Blank and Jacobsz were executed. Intentional anachronisms, such as the use of radios, typewriters and jeeps, are also used in the film to illustrate Greyson's larger theme that homophobia and racism of the type that led to Blank's and Jacobsz' executions are still very much present in today's world. A speech by Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned at Robben Island in 1964, is also used at the end of the film.

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