Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

The South African entry for the Academy Awards of 2018 is quite a controversial movie in its home country. If focuses on the ritual tradition of the Xhosa to send their young men up to the mountains where they stay for a few weeks to be ‘initiated’ into manhood. This also means they get circumcised and need to heal. It’s a practice which still occurs these days, even though a lot of modern families send their sons to a hospital for a safe medical ‘cut’. It’s a cultural tradition and a personal affair. So, yes, this movie takes away the secrecy and brings the story to a larger (international) audience. Apart from that, the movie also focuses on three men with homosexual desires. Another controversial topic in South Africa, where being gay is legal, but doesn’t get the support from the majority of the population.

For Europeans, this is a fascinating movie. But it is voyeuristic. It’s not a movie made by and for the Xhosa people. It’s a movie made by a white director for an international crowd. Luckily, this thought only comes to mind afterwards. During the movie, you are soaked up in the story, mesmerized by the acting and in awe of the beautiful setting. The interaction between the three main actors and their characters is the best feat of the movie. The end result is quite respectful for the tradition. And the homo-erotism is very present, but not as sensational as in other movies.

Calling it the African Moonlight doesn’t do the movie justice. It’s actually sad that the latter movie won the Oscar last year, because now voters may not give this one a fair change because it’s again about black homosexuals. If the movie had been released a few years ago, it would have made a great chance of winning the Academy Award for best foreign picture.

Trevor Noah is a bit of an overconfident arrogant dick. But he gets away with it, because he’s also really good. This documentary follows the stand up comedian during the months leading up to his first one man show. It’s a fascinating documentary. It shows a lot of Trevor Noah, who’s being interviewed one on one and who’s being filmed as he prepares for gigs, visits the places where he grew up and goes on stage for the first time in LA. They also let other people speak. Some of his family and friends, but also some of the older generation of comedians in South Africa who absolutely hate his guts.

Worth the watch. 

Bought this South African buddy cop comedy for 25 rand (which is like 2 euro or so) in a small town in the Karoo. According to the lady in the video rental store – they still exist there – this was an absolute topper. She recommended three others, one of which was SO bad that I couldn’t watch more than half an hour (Babalas). This Blitzpatrollie is also really bad, but at least there are some funny moments and it’s so camp that it’s entertaining at times. It’s also interesting to watch this representation of modern-day South Africa, in which inhabitants of all colors and languages seem to co-live quite well. It’s great to see after you’ve experienced traveling through the country as well – that is if you actually talked to the people or read the funny ‘A Racist Guide To The People Of South Africa’. If you think South Africa has 50 percent black people and 50 percent white people who still don’t talk to each other and there’s a killing on the street every five minutes, than you’re fucked.

That said, the intrigue kind of disappears after an hour when you realize that this is just a copy of the Hollywood buddy cop movie. It must have been a very low-budget movie, with takes done only once. However, the special effects are more efficient than in movies like Sharknado even though there must have been less money to create them. For example: the main killer of the movie kills his victims by throwing a brick to their heads. One brick, one throw and they are dead. That’s ridiculous but funny, especially since it gets repeated a few times. But simple can be clever. The first time it happens you see the victim, you see a brick in the air, you hear a sound and they zoom in on the brick with blood. Compared to the detailed death scenes in Game Of Thrones this suggestive scene is as good.

The story isn’t all that special. Two losers at the police force intervene in a domestic violence scene and accidentally discover a drug den. Another police officer who is supposed to bring the drugs to the police station gets killed (yep, by a brick to his head) and the van disappears. More murders happen and you have several people looking for the drugs. It’s silly. It’s basically a series of sketches glued together with easy detachable spit.

There’s a negative review online which is spot on, but way too harsh. Especially since it accuses the producer for making a ‘touristic trinket’ that will entertain Europeans, who will consider it garbage, but enjoy it anyways because of its exotic appeal. The reviewer is ashamed of this movie and fears that viewers will laugh AT South Africa. Thát is silly.

Bad comedies are made all over the world. Humor is a very regional thing. Would I have liked this movie as a South African? Most likely not. Do I like it as a European movie lover? Not really. But the fact that it is not made in the US, the UK, Germany or France does make it more exotic and more intriguing. That’s not a bad thing at all. The movie won’t make anyone visit South Africa more than they already wanted to before. Nor will it make anyone think that this is the best South Africa can do. Europeans make silly movies all the time. They don’t get released abroad, because maybe they are not exotic enough. Americans make even more silly movies and they do get released. Compared to anything from Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler, this really wasn’t all that bad.

Zulu is a bit of a bad title really, that’s why it was also released as City Of Violence in some countries and Cape Town Cops in others. It never got a release in the UK or the USA, maybe because they couldn’t market it properly. It has Orlando Bloom though and Forest Whitaker who do a great job, even speaking Afrikaans at some point. But it’s directed by a French guy and only got a big release in France.

It’s really not such a bad movie at all, but it just doesn’t feel right. It kind of shows Cape Town from the perspective of outsiders and it tries to fit in too much information in too short a movie. This could have been a great miniseries. Think of crime thrillers like The Killing for instance or True Detective. But now it feels like a superficially directed and written pilot of a crime series.

The main story deals about two cops who want to solve a series of mysterious events after a mutilated body of a pretty young girl was found. But it also involves the disappearing of township children, druglords getting all aggressive against the police at the beach, corruption within the force, former apartheid governments trying to implement new ways of getting rid of the ‘inferior’ black population. It shows Blooms character as a drunk and irresponsible divorced dad. It shows Whitaker as a troubled celibate with subdued trauma’s from the past. Interesting stuff, but not well executed.

But again, maybe one day this becomes a great tv show. 

A Long Walk To Freedom is a must for anyone visiting or having visited South Africa. The locals love this recent biopic about Nelson Mandela and will recommend it as if it’s the only movie ever made in their country. The press over here wasn’t so impressed and it didn’t really do anything during last year’s award season. But still, it’s quite popular in its homeland and definitely a must.

Unfortunately it’s not such a good movie. It’s an ordinary biopic that feels more like a Winnie & Nelson love story than a portrait of a political activist and leader. The problem is that the movie just covers too much information. It is great as an introduction to the man who was imprisoned for 27 years after being arrested for being a terrorist and then leading the country after his release. But it doesn’t really focus on anything in particular, apart from the relationship between Nelson and his second wife Winnie.

What’s good about the movie is that it really doesn’t depict Nelson Mandela as a saint. The guy was a bit of an ego tripper and a disrespectful husband to his first wife. He did call for violence before he was arrested. It’s only as president of the entire nation that he became the icon everyone adores. So that’s great. Another key element of making this movie watchable is the performance of Idris Elba, who doesn’t look anything like Mandela, but who has you glued to the screen anyways. He’s so much Idris Elba playing Mandela though that you are more interested in learning about Idris Elba than Mandela. Which couldn’t have been the objective of the director.

All in all, it’s okay. But let’s hope there will be good movies in the future focussing on just ONE period of Nelson’s life. And let’s hope they’ll use a less attractive actor playing the main part.

During a hop on hop off tour in Johannesburg, the audio commentary recommends watching Jerusalema as it drives by the Hillbrow district, where empty high-rise buildings were invaded by blacks from the townships after the fall of Apartheid.

It’s a great recommendation. This is a really good movie. It starts with the arrest of Lucky Kunene, a hoodlum who basically is in charge of all the buildings. He gets interviewed by a reporter and the rest of the story is one huge flashback. It takes the viewers back to his youth where he gets into the lucrative business of carjacking once he learns that he is not entitled to receive a tuition for a university career. After a ten-year break of criminality (kind of) he discovers a more clever way of making lots of money. He sets up a building trust and collects all the rent from families living in the aforementioned buildings. With that money he buys property where he can charge rent again. He basically becomes a regular landlord (kind of). However, a Nigerian gang leader isn’t all too happy with Lucky’s empire which pushes him, his drug traffic and his prostitution network away from Johannesburg’ center.

The best thing of the movie is not so much the story, but the main character’s development. He’s a very likable gangster, with a sense of morality. He’s intelligent and ambitious and therefore respected. All he wants is a dream house near the ocean in Durban and crime is just another way of getting it. The two performers who portray him (as a youth and as an adult) are excellent. This really is great acting. But also the sidekicks are doing a great job as well. Only the female characters and actresses disappoint.

Another cool thing is that this movie is made in South Africa and by South Africans. It’s not an American movie set in the fascinating country. It’s home-made stuff. Think about The Wire (atmosphere) meets Cidade de Deus (exoticism) and you get the picture. It’s way better than the award-winning Tsotsi.

Being in South Africa makes you check out classic movies you’ve heard about but never bothered to watch. Cry Freedom is one of those must see. It’s stars Denzel Washington as Biko, an activist from the seventies fighting against the Apartheid regime. He has a supporting role and is excellent. He dies in the movie, which isn’t really a big surprise if you know your history a bit. The main character is played by an equally excellent Kevin Kline, who portrays a liberal editor of a newspaper that is critical to the government.

The first part introduces the two brave men and show how they start a fragile friendship. The second part focuses on the threats uttered against the editor who wants to tell the world that Biko did not die of a ’hunger strike’. And the finale is a tense escape thriller as he tries to get across the border to Lesotho and ask for political asylum.

It’s a long movie, but one that never bores. It’s historically accurate, but a lot of drama was added for the sake of entertainment. The police and minister of justice are depicted as nazi-like oppressors, the black population as saintly victims. Good vs evil works well in a story like this, but recent movies (by f.i. Quentin Tarantino) have shown that the bad guys can be cool too and that the good guys can be pretty badass as well.

It’s nevertheless an important must see with excellent acting and brilliant dialogue. It’s easy to understand why they add the scene of the Soweto massacre of 1976 at the end, but it really doesn’t fit well with the rest of the story. But hey. It was made in the eighties when the West reacted against Apartheid by means of economic boycott and cultural events… It helped (maybe).

Being in Lesotho makes one watch movies from Lesotho. Not that there are many, but The Forgotten Kingdom is a recent world movie festival favorite.

It has all the ingredients for making blockbuster movie fans shun away: it’s poetic, symbolic, spoken in a foreign language, with long shots of natural beauty. However, it’s also filmed in a very modern way and has enough humor, violence and romance to attract a larger crowd.

It helps if you actually know the area. There are plenty of references to the culture of the Basotho (the inhabitants of Lesotho – a landlocked mountainous country in Southern Africa). But it may work as a nice introduction as well. It’s quite logical that many tourist centres sell the dvd in their gift shop.

The story deals about a semi thug from Johannesburg who learns that his estranged father has passed away. Both moved from Lesotho to the South African metropolis for a better future, but they landed in a township and the father was pretty absent in the boys’ life. The deceased made all the arrangements for his funeral… in his home country, so his son reluctantly goes back to his native land.

What follows is a physical and emotional journey of a young man still in search of a better future. But it also shows a modern side of today’s Lesotho, where educated women still struggle in a family (father) ruled society and where AIDS claims a lot of victims.

It’s really not as depressing as it sounds and it’s the kind of ’world movie’ made like anything from the West. The main character is escorted by a little kid, who can be interpreted as an inner guiding spirit. That’s a very nice touch to a well made movie (with a debatable end).

Based on a famous Surinamese book, Hoe Duur Was De Suiker (literally: How Expensive Was The Sugar) is set in the Dutch colonial sugar plantations at the end of the 18th century. Life was boring for the rich owners and hard for their slaves. But nobody suffered more than Sarith, a young woman so beautiful and lustful that many men wanted to bed her, but ignored her when looking for a wife.

It’s sad to write that all the focus in this movie (a shortened version of a tv series) lies on this one egocentric, arrogant, mean, soulless, but dramatically very convincing manipulating bitch. She’s not quite Vivien Leigh, but Gaite Jansen does an excellent job as the main character of this Gone With The Wind-like historical drama.

Ironically enough, the producers decided to tell the story from the viewpoint of her personal slave, in order to make it look more like a historical account rather than a romantic soap drama. The setting is great, a lot of time and money was spent on the costume design and some scenes are brutal both mentally and physically. The price of sugar was paid at the cost of inhumanity, deprivation and death.

But in the end it’s really all about a manipulating screwed up psycho slut. So, don’t expect a Dutch version of 12 Years A Slave.

Tsotsi – *1/2

Posted: December 19, 2012 in 2005, Drama, South Africa, X1/2


My fears were legit. This IS a boring movie. Nothing like Cidade de Deus at all. Not that I thought it would be as cool and funky and action packed with humor and lust. But still. A car jacking goes wrong when the carjacker finds a baby in the back seat. Now what? Raise it, change your life and give it back?

So, it’s set in Johannesburg and that adds to the drama I guess. But change the location to Los Angeles and you just have one lousy b-movie. the acting is bad. the story is simplistic. the moral is silly. Only the soundtrack is refreshing and there are a few moments where the main actor actually does shine. But apart from that: