don’t be late for my funeral
An intimate tale of the impact a domestic worker had on 4 generations of one white family during the time of apartheid and beyond told by the filmmaker, one of the children she helped raise.
In the film “Don’t Be Late for My Funeral,” filmmaker Diana Keam takes viewers on a personal journey of discovery and grief. Seeking a deeper understanding of her family’s history, Diana turns to an unlikely yet profoundly intimate source, Margaret Bogopa Matlala, the former domestic worker and nanny who worked for 3 generations of Diana’s family. Venturing to a rural town in South Africa, Diana visits Margaret in her home. As the documentary unfolds, we begin to see the profound impact of Margaret’s wisdom, not only on multiple generations of Diana’s family, but on Margaret’s own family too – contextualised within the struggles of living in apartheid-era South Africa.
Margaret’s unwavering strength and indomitable spirit serve as a beacon, illuminating the film’s exploration of human resilience and love in the face of adversity. The film invites viewers to reflect on their own familial connections and on the significant influence the compassion of ‘outsiders’ within the family structure can have in shaping our lives and relationships
COLLEEN ANNE VAN BILJON (JOYNER) (1940 – 2017) is the filmmakers mother who died of Alzheimer’s before the documentary filming began. We get to know her through family photographs and the stories of the other characters. Colleen spent her formative years at Catholic boarding schools after which she became a teacher. She had two marriages and seven children.
Margaret holding baby Diana
Colleen with young Diana
A Labour of Love
1994: South Africa holds its first democratic elections and the idea for the film is born.
1996: Diana starts to write her first feature film script and condolidate her ideas.
1998: Filming begins at Margaret’s retirement party
2007: A writer is engaged to create a fictional script about a white girl, her black nanny and a white lion. The film receives support from the NFVF.
2008: A short film called “My Other Mother” is produced that features the cot death of a child.
2015: Diana completes a script writing course and writes a feature script entitled “Angels and Ancestors” based on her story.
2017: After Diana’s mother’s funeral a series of interviews take place with Margaret with the realisation that documentary is the most honest medium to tell the story and so “Don’t Be late for my Funeral” came into being.
2018: Crowd funding campaign launched on Mother’s Day. Over R100K raised. Diana and Margaret interviewed for a range of media outlets – tv, radio and print. Also filmed is an interview with Diana.
2019: Margaret and her daughter Thembi are interviewed in Johannesburg. Then Margaret’s 80th birthday party is filmed in and around her home. Further interviews with Margaret and her family plus interviews with Diana’s family.
A promo for the film is edited from all existing material.
2021: Margaret dies. We travel to film and attend her funeral.
2022: First assembly edit is completed.
2023: Edit is finalised and film is completed by August.
Meet the filmmaker
Diana is best known in the film world as a first assistant director and producer in the feature film and commercial world. From assisting renowned feature directors like John Boorman and Arthur Penn, to working with actors like Samuel L Jackson, Juliet Binoche and Nigel Hawthorn.
Diana is also an award winning director. Her short film “My Other Mother” was selected to be a part of the Lunar short film festival that travelled the USA and screened at film festivals globally. In 2016 the film “Thread” she directed for the 48HFP won 11 awards including Best Film and director in Cape Town as well as an international award.
She co-owns Silver Bullet Films where she is developing feature length documentaries and creating a variety of film content for different platforms.
Directors showreel : silverbullet.co.za/diana-keam
Thank you to all our contributors (so far)
Elsa Raubenheimer Lilienfeld
Hermina van der Heyde
Marcus van Zyl
Michelle Hill (Scott)
Philip van Zyl
Sarah Jane Scott
Tania “TJ” Jenkins