Corruption, fraud and bribery make the headlines every day in South Africa, so it’s no surprise that that local filmmakers are delving into what has become a national sport in the country.
Friday, 28 August sees the opening of two new films that tackle the issue of corruption, albeit in very different ways. The first is Leon Schuster’s latest comedy caper, Schuks! Pay Back the Money. Directed by Gray Hofmeyr, it stars Schuster setting off on a riotous journey to pay for what he has done, after losing rugby’s Currie Cup. In lieu of a R1 million fine, the Sports Minister (Desmond Dube) offers Schuks a lifeline to create a documentary film that shows South Africa in a positive light. Schuks meets two clueless crooks, an enterprising traffic officer and a conniving pawnbroker, along the way, and his “documentary” features a series of candid camera gags.
At the other end of the spectrum is filmmaker Jyoti Mistry’s new film ‘Impunity’, a profound investigation into contemporary South Africa and the seat of power. ‘Impunity’ was made possible through a generous grant from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, the principal funder, to Blackboard Trust.
In a country where people who commit crime are often seen to be exempt from punishment, or free from the consequences of their actions, the film reflects on the nature of corruption and violence.
“The film invites self-reflection,” says Mistry. “Having screened the film at the Toronto Film Festival in 2014, and earlier this year at the Durban International Film Festival, I’m interested to see how general South African audiences respond to the story and the visual language of the film.”
‘Impunity’ tells the story of an attractive young couple, Derren (Bjorn Steinbach) and Echo (Alex McGregor), who work as waiters. A Special Crimes Unit investigator Dingande Fakude (Desmond Dube) and a local police detective and trained psychologist Naveed Khan (Vaneshran Arumugam), take them in for questioning after a high-profile murder.
The two lawmen find themselves caught up in political corruption and conspiracy when they investigate the gruesome killing of a cabinet minister’s daughter, found in an exclusive African safari resort after a party celebrating her engagement to a rising political star.
It soon becomes clear that Derren and Echo, who were working as waiters at the engagement party, are caught up in a frenzied, bloody adventure. As Dingande and Naveed begin to piece events together, it seems the perpetrators will be brought to book. Instead, however, they are drawn further into the high-profile murder case. Eventually, as they uncover a trail of murders, they are faced with a moral dilemma involving the new political elite.
The film is interspersed with cuts to security-cam and news footage of violence, both criminal and accidental, as well as newspaper headlines highlighting some of the estimated 650 000 violent crimes that take place each year. The Toronto Film Festival organisers described “‘Impunity’” as “an eye-opening jolt, casting an unwavering gaze on South Africa’s increasingly troubling surrender to the banality of violence.”
‘Impunity’ is produced by Blackboard Trust, Shadowy Meadows Productions and Bioskope Pictures, with additional funding from the Department of Trade and Industry, National Film and Video Foundation, and the Gauteng Film Commission. The film opens in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town on 28 August.