Mardaleen, a strikingly cultured student stuck in the small town of Potchefstroom, yearns for the lights and culture of London. After a dreadful break-up she packs her bags and sets off for her dream city with her best friend, Lara. They stay in House Konettie, along with five other South Africans working in London.

An unexpected romance blossoms between Mardaleen and the Namibian-born housemate, Hugo. It seems too good to be true and the moment things start getting too serious and aren’t going quite as she planned, her insecurities and fears get the better of her.

She bails and heads home.

Their romance is rekindled when they meet two years later, followed by an invitation from Hugo for Mardaleen to visit him in Namibia. Her weekend in Namibia turns into a rollercoaster nightmare.

Despite this, Hugo asks her to stay and build a life together, stubbornly she refuses, she has other plans for her life.

Mardaleen wants culture, the city and its lights – a farm is no place for a girl like her.

The true story and the film

Their love knows twists and turns and drama, but certainly not borders. It’s a romance that stretches across continents, thousands of kilometres and decades.

When Mardaleen Coetzer first spotted her future husband, Hugo Derk, in the 1990s, both were still students in Potchefstroom.

To him, campus life was synonymous with having a good time and rugby. She was a rag queen finalist and on top of that, befriended the “decent guys”. Destined for one another? These two who differ so much?

But then fate decided that they would end up in the same commune in London after university and it’s here where they, despite various twists, fell head over heels in love.

When their time overseas came to an end, the city lights of Cape Town lured Mardaleen and Hugo preferred the farm life in Namibia. Long after that their paths crossed again, and a tumultuous relationship developed across the kilometres between Namibia and Cape Town.

The Derks couple from Gobabis in Namibia’s road to the altar wasn’t traditional, but they’ve been happily married for 14 years and they have a daughter, Githe (12) and a son, Liam (11).

“Their story has all the elements of a gripping romance,” says Wikus du Toit, kykNET’s commissioning producer for comedy and drama. “There’s two cute people, interesting places, a fresh angle, the big misunderstanding that results in them parting ways, and then the passion when they find each other again. Lots of laughter, tears and plenty of love.”

Besides that, their story spans from Potchefstroom’s student life to London and then to the ending in Namibia. “It’s exciting. It’s different and new,” says Wikus.

He especially likes the story world against the background of the 1990s when everyone worked in London for a gap year after their studies. “Add to that the great music of the 1990s and you have an Afrikaans story that hasn’t been told on the silver screen yet.”

Danie Bester from The Film Factory, also the producer of “Vir die Voëls”, says it’s an exciting romance with great humour and the film will make audiences feel good. He says, “Mardaleen and Hugo’s story is remarkable because they never gave up on love”.

Mardaleen was 22 years old and studied communication studies when she noticed Hugo (then 24) in Potchefstroom. She and a friend were visiting a group of pals in the student house next to his.

The day she saw him, he was shirtless and she couldn’t help but stare at his six-pack. Little did she know that this B.Com student had already asked about the girl who visited the guys on the other side of the fence. “No, pal, forget about it. She’s not your type,” one neighbour said.

When their paths crossed the following year in London, they shared a commune with a big group of young South Africans. Hugo was popular and at a point Mardaleen thought he was a “real ladies’ man”.

But then they fell in love.

Mardaleen remembers that first kiss. “I’m convinced you find a kissing partner like you find a soul partner”.

In London, they have a fairy tale romance full of adventures, but also heartache and drama. During this time she wants a life in the city and he wants to go farming, and as a result, when they left London they didn’t even exchange telephone numbers. But of course that wasn’t the end of the story…

Being married to each other is still one big adventure, the two say from Namibia. “We’re best friends and share everything with each other,” says Mardaleen.

“Mardaleen likes telling our story to everyone,” says Hugo. “I’ll sometimes tell it, but a shortened version. Then she’ll jump in with the details and say, ‘Wait, wait, wait, let me rather tell it’”.

After she’d told it to her grade 11 class one day, the story spread like wildfire through the school corridors of Gobabis Gymnasium. “Every period after that the following class came to ask to hear the story. I realised our love story might have a chance in the competition.”

Two days before the closing date Mardaleen started typing furiously to send it in. Hugo went through it to “sensor it a little”.

“Those were our wild and rebellious years,” Mardaleen explains, laughing. “It still doesn’t feel real that the movie was made about us. Ever since we heard the news, we’ve had sleepless nights because of excitement,” says Mardaleen.

“We wonder which actors are going to play the characters and how the creative people are going to work their magic.”

Although it’s based on true events, the script was written by Tarryn-Tanille Prinsloo and edited by Hanneke Schutte, and was adapted for the screen in some parts. A lot of colourful characters will appear in the movie.

Today there aren’t any borders between Mardaleen and Hugo anymore.

During the week, when she teaches in Gobabis, she and their two children live in town. On Fridays they drive the farm road of 135 kilometres to spend weekends with Hugo.

“Every time I push open the farm gates, I’m in a different world and I come home,” she says. “People often ask how I adjusted to the farm. But I’m so in love with my husband that he could have taken me to Timbuctoo and I would have followed him. I don’t want to be anywhere else.” And now everyone will be able to share in that journey…