Lockdown viewing: Four gripping SA films that truly pack the punch
These proudly South African films contain all the elements to make for end-of-the-seat viewing. Here's why they should be on your must-see list.
‘Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema’
Directed by Ralph Ziman, Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema was the first of its kind to hit the South African box office in 2008. The hero, Lucky Kunene, is played by powerhouse actor Rapulana Seiphemo, with Jafta Mamabolo portraying his younger version in the movie.
Kunene enters a life of hijacking in order to support himself and his family. He is destined to be bigger and better and moves from Soweto to Hillbrow to land bigger fish, and this is where he earns himself the exceptional nickname of “Hoodlum of Hillbrow”.
Gritty rags-to-riches narrative
Call this a rags-to-riches narrative if you will, but the film explores a narrative where young black men are forced to do turn to crime to put food on the table and clothes on their backs in post-apartheid South Africa.
What’s impactful about this narrative is that Johannesburg has become a dangerous city because of its high rate of unemployment, thus people are forced to create jobs for themselves even if it means getting involved in a life of crime.
This film is centred around a delicate time in South Africa where South Africans were celebrating the end of apartheid, but were unsure of how to navigate “A New South Africa”.
This film is a truthful, raw and authentic depiction of central Johannesburg between 1999 and 2005 — and some might argue that nothing has changed in Johannesburg.
‘Inxeba: The Wound’
Directed by John Trengrove, Inxeba: The Wound became a piece of cinematic work that shifted the essence of South African cinema. A stellar on-screen debut for Nakhane Touré, who plays Xolani, a factory worker who is set to initiate a group of young boys into manhood in the Eastern Cape.
The film depicts the homosexual love story between Xolani and initiate Kwanda (played by Niza Jay Ncoyini). Inxeba is the most decorated film in South Africa to date and came the closest to winning an Academy Award after 2006’s Tsotsi.
Controversial depiction of initiation met by outrage
The film was met with outrage by Xhosa communities in the Eastern Cape when they claimed the film revealed secrets of the mountains where young boys undergo their initiation.
However, Trengrove argued that there is nothing in the film that have not already been revealed by former president Nelson Mandela in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, and Thando Mgqolozana’s A Man who is not a Man.
The director explained in an interview with Politically Aweh that the film explores the theme of masculinity and that the outrage by the Xhosa community has an undertone of homophobia linked to it.
South Africa is the only country on the African continent to allow same-sex marriage yet we are far from presenting liberated views when it comes to our LGBTQIA+ community.
Throughout South African film and television narratives, we’ve encountered many problematic gay characters throughout the years. Inxeba explores this theme upfront as a story of our nation’s reality, although many refuse to view it as the truth.
‘Dis ek, Anna’
Anna Bruwer (played by Charlene Brouwer) shoots her stepfather after enduring years of abuse from him. Anna does not hide the fact that she committed the crime because of how fragmented she was by being abused by her stepfather. The film is based on Anchien Troskie’s novel by the same name.
The Afrikaans film explores the themes of trauma, abuse, and years of pain. The film’s narrative is one that is heartfelt to which the film’s other elements speak as well. As testament to its narrative exceptionally, the film does not waste any time getting to the point and viewers find themselves becoming emotionally attached within the first 10 minutes to Anna Bruwer’s character.
High praise for emotionally captivating acting
The standard of acting in Dis ek, Anna is one that deserves high praise as the cast portrayed their roles remarkably well and are emotionally captivating. The film has heaps of footage of when Anna was a young girl to take the audience through the events that changed her life. Apart from being abused by her stepfather (played by Morne Visser), her biological father committed suicide after leaving her and her mother when she was young.
Trauma and abuse in SA context
The key point of this narrative is to unpack the psychological impacts of trauma and abuse in a South African context. Driving more than five hours between the Western Cape and Bloemfontein to shoot a man who abused her and her younger sister for years, is a decision fuelled by emotional scars and wretchedness.
Overall, a heartfelt piece of cinema from director Sara Belcher.
A combination of a documentary and a fiction film, Shooting Bokkie follows passionate South African director Rob de Mezieres as he and his crew members follow a “bokkie” (translated to a little buck) who is used as a messenger by gangs in the Cape Flats. A bokkie is a usually around the age of 14.
The film has been praised for its direction and cinematography, as well as the use of different mediums to tell the story.
Some parts of the film’s narrative are fiction but as an audience member, one can’t tell which parts are dramatised. The film came under scrutiny because of the danger of the Cape Flats and the ethics surrounding filming illegal activities for the entertainment of others. Various parts of the film are rather graphic and disturbing, but De Mezieres’ set about to show the reality of the Cape Flats.
The overall point of the narrative is to depict the authenticity of the Cape Flats and how young teenage boys are entering a life of crime from a young age. Shooting Bokkie is a wild card of a film and tests its audience to differentiate between fact and fiction.