Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

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:


Skin – *1/2

Posted: December 18, 2012 in 2008, biopic, Drama, Historical, South Africa, X1/2

As I was planning to go to South Africa earlier this month, I rented a few South African movies, one of them was Skin, a drama based on true facts that have kept South Africa and the whole wide world captivated back in the days of Apartheid.

Dark skinned Sandra is born from white parents, who refuse to see her as dark and want to do everything to both make the government see her as white and make herself feel white. The government does recognize her as being white, but she never does. Her parents are ironically very racist and supporters of the Apartheid system, which does not help her a bit when she falls in love with a local black man.

The story is incredibly fascinating, but the movie is a drag! The storytelling is very fragmental. The dialogue is uninspiring. The character portrayal is very stereotypical. The acting is bad. After a while, you just can’t take all the misery anymore. And I’m not just talking about the real misery that the main character is suffering. This is just a miserable movie. It makes you want to watch a documentary or go and do your research yourself. A movie should be entertaining and captivating. It should not make you fall asleep or be unmoved by its content. Again, this story is incredibly fascinating. Why didn’t they do MORE with it. As if the woman hasn’t suffered enough in her life! She now has to live with the idea that they could only make a boring movie about her life. Or maybe she gave her blessing because it basically shows the viewers what a rough life she has had. Fine. I understand. But I’m sure her parents, her brothers, her husbands and her children didn’t have an easy life either and although that’s mentioned, I would love to see the story from their point of view.

Just skip the movie and read some of the books written about the story. Or watch some documentaries like the one I found on youtube

Skoonheid – **

Posted: March 13, 2012 in 2011, Drama, LGBT themed, South Africa, XX

Hm. This is one disturbing movie. It’s the kind of movie where you’re interested in what’s going to happen to the main character even though you’re totally hating his guts. It’s actually quite a feat from the director and from the actor in the lead role to make you feel so disgusted. That and the fact that there are some awesome cinematic elements which re-occur a few times make it really worth the watch. But you need to be very open-minded I guess.

The cinematic elements that I just loved were quite simple actually, but I can’t recall having seen them been used so effectively before. The director loves to film a scene where the important action is taking place somewhere outside of the centre of the screen. I think that’s just awesome, how you get deceived by looking at all kinds of things and almost miss out on what’s really important. He also loves to film conversations of people without the sound, which works wonderfully here.

I knew nothing of the story, which was a good thing. Sometimes it’s great to be surprised. Had I known more, I probably wouldn’t have bothered watching. There’s two disturbing scenes that you could warn people about, but it’s part of the intention of the movie to get the shock effect. All you need to know is that it deals about a macho South African wood supplier who’s having some serious issues with his sexuality.

I would have liked to learn more about the past of this man and a bit more about the other family members, such as his grown up daughters and his cheating wife. It would have made me understand the man’s behavior a bit more. Now I just feel sorry for this guy and I consider him very sad and sick in the head. I could also see him as a lonely, frustrated and traumatic man in a midlife crisis. But I don’t. He’s just a sad and sick creep.

Curious? I hope so. It’s really not a bad movie at all even though some scenes are just too long.

Invictus – **

Posted: September 29, 2010 in biopic, Drama, South Africa, Sportsdrama, USA, XX

Seen at home on dvd

I bought Gran Torino for my parents and got another Clint Eastwood movie for free: Invictus, the story of Nelson Mandela’s attempt to make the black population like the white rugby team and lead them to victory in the world championship.

It’s okay. It’s a big budget television movie really, released in the theatres. There’s really nothing special about it. The actors are just doing their job. I never saw Nelson Mandela, but Morgan Freeman speaking in a peculiar English. I never saw a great rugby team captain, but Matt Damon with blond hair speaking in an even more peculiar English.

There’s nothing really wrong with the script, but it just follows the events as they have occurred. Very linear. No twists. No amazing dialogues. And to be honest, no humor. Even though there are a few attempts. The story is based on true facts and there are attempts to show the racism between the blacks and the whites, but in the end it looks like winning the world cup made South Africa the most harmonious country in the world. But it’s Hollywood and this movie needs a happy end.