Talking Movies: Remembering Barry – Episode 2

Welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we embark on episode 2 of ‘Remembering Barry’, a heartfelt tribute to the beloved entertainment journalist and film critic, Barry Ronge.

A rare privilege, I stepped into Barry’s tranquil Johannesburg home, and conversed with his partner of 47 years, Albertus van Dyk (LightStrider to many). Their starry-eyed story unfolds beautifully, a love that blossomed against their shared passion for the silver screen…

What I also find quite fascinating is when I learned of the fact that he was teaching Afrikaans at St John’s and I met someone, a senior tax practitioner, who told me when he found out that I’m a film critic that he had actually had Barry teach him Afrikaans and I think by visiting your home here today, I’ve realized that there is a glacier effect, but there’s just so much more depth and so many more stories to him.

I understand that, but it’s just so beautiful that there’s just layers. It’s often the case in the public domain where you think you know someone based on what’s being shown to you and when you walk in their space and hear some of the stories then you get a fuller appreciation just who they are and just how special they are as well.

Exactly, and I think Spling, it’s like a tapestry. I’ve always called it our life tapestry because it is so absolutely extraordinary. Talking about Afrikaans, there’s sometimes a perception that Barry Ronge was against Afrikaans or against Afrikaans movies, but few people actually know that he studied under his lecturer at Wits NP Van Wyk Louw and Barry loved Afrikaans and it was one his majors. Of course, he taught Afrikaans at St John’s and then went back to Wits to teach there for 10 years.

The stories that come up are just so wonderful. It’s like just different facets to this diamond shape.

Exactly, and I may say that most of all Barry and I think the allure of Barry, Barry Ronge, is that Barry was real. He was approachable. He was himself through all the different phases of who Barry is. He was always just himself.

Of course, there’s a private Barry, the private Barry that we protected because we wanted to be private in our relationship, but yet we were very open in who we were without waving a flag because we were real. We were alive. We were together.

We were in love and so we never put on a show really, this is who we are and this is who we will always be. I think that is so relevant in today’s world, that idea of being yourself, being true to yourself and that passionate authenticity, I think has really shone through in both of your lives. Yes.

I think it’s such an inspiration to people that were part of that sheltered generation, but also to today’s more open-minded youth where people are realising that you don’t need to just get a job, get married, follow the rat race and then die. You can actually do something quite extraordinary with your life and follow your dreams and live with more purpose.

Exactly, and for both Barry and me, it was about living a magical, authentic life and to be enthusiastic about everything, or else Barry could never have been the journalist he had been and will still be. There’s always so much to be excited about. Our house is a testimony of who we are, excitement. You can’t see it on this recording, but I’m surrounded by magic and mystery.

To just give you an idea of visual, there are some carpets on the wall and candles and we’ve got some interesting globes, all kinds of motifs from dragons to horses. It’s just such a colourful and alive and through the glass windows, I can just see our foliage and green and I described it as kind of being a bit of Studio Ghibli crystals. You know, it’s just every way you look, there’s something that will grab your eye and that just brings a sense of joy and pleasure.

So, such a wonderful home, such a special space and such an honour to be here. Thank you.

Thank you so much. It’s our enchanted world because it is enchanted and that’s part of who I am, the mystic, the otherworldly, but yet on the earth, in the earth, in the garden and both of us, that’s how we earthed in our garden. But that’s what inspired us to go back into the world and to be there.

And you know, you’ve lived through some really interesting times over the last 50 years. Everyone that’s lived over the last 50 years in South Africa has lived through interesting times. The one part that I’d like to focus on, just in terms of identity politics and being gay, I mean, how easy has it been to be yourself and what have been some of the biggest challenges and revelations that you both faced? It’s quite a big question.

It is, hey. Well, I always think how amazing that two outsiders who had a specific identity could fall down to earth together in the cinema and that we were authentic in who we were. I had already known who I was, so it wasn’t a big deal. It was a big deal for other people in my family.

It was very traumatic, cathartic, but darling and I, Barry, we were together. We were always together and we didn’t have to explain. We didn’t have to make excuses. I remember one of Barry’s first jobs. He said, this is Albertus and Albertus will be with me. And that’s the way it was.

So we’ve sat at tables with kings and queens, not gay queens and kings, but real kings and queens and royalties and prominent people. And we never had to explain. Ever.

Barry Ronge’s legacy shines through our collective memories. In this spirit, we seek a library or museum for his 1,700 film book collection, where his passion for movies can endure.

Together, we can ensure Barry’s love for art, film, and culture continues to light our way. Share your ideas and join us on this mission at splingmovies.com.