Film Review

Aladdin – Review

A story we all know, with memories of a fun animated feature presented years back by Disney. Now on the big screen with a real life performance.

Aladdin (Mena Massoud), a seemingly kind hearted thief happens upon the Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott – Power Rangers) and a dark plot by a power hungry Grand Vizier who wants to use the power of a magic lamp, containing a Genie (Will Smith – Suicide Squad, Concussion). The Genie has the power to grant wishes to whomever holds the lamp, and so begins a battle not only against the evil aspirations of Jafar (Marwan Kenzari – Murder on the Orient Express) but those holding this treasure must also fight against their inner desires, and struggle to use the magic for good, lest they be seduced by greed.

While many might enter the cinema with thoughts of the previous incarnation of this tale, this telling, while remaining true to the story, brings with it its own magic. There are laughs, and thrills, the ever present songs we’ve come to know, and a story to be loved by both young and old.

Aladdin, coming from Disney, does not disappoint. While many would feel there could be but one Genie, Smith brings his own flair to the role, doing justice to the dear memory held by fans. Massoud and Scott bring a palpable chemistry to their complex on-screen relationship. And the setting and sets instil the awe the story is tasked to portray.

A fun, family outing, Aladdin hits it out the park, up to the new heights of its very own magic carpet. The film opens 24 May 2019 in South African cinemas.


4 Reasons To Binge Golden Globe Winner ‘Escape At Dannemora’

Two words on this one: Patricia Arquette. It’s her version of Charlize Theron’s transformation in Monster.

Escape At Dannemora, nominated as Best Limited Series at this year’s Golden Globes, is now available to binge on Showmax.

The seven-part series is based on a stranger-than-fiction prison break in upstate New York in the summer of 2015, which spawned a state-wide manhunt for two convicted murderers, aided in their escape by a female prison employee who carried on months-long affairs with both men – despite being married to another prison employee.

Patricia Arquette as Tilly in Escape At Dannemora. Photo: Christopher Saunders/SHOWTIME

Here are four reasons to add this dark prison break drama to your watchlist immediately:

1 – Patricia Arquette in a Golden Globe-winning role as Tilly Mitchell

Patricia Arquette won the 2019 Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild award, and the Critics’ Choice prize for her lead performance as Tilly Mitchell, a working class wife and mother who supervises the prison tailor shop and becomes sexually involved with both men, ultimately agreeing to hide hacksaw blades in frozen hamburger meat to help them get out. Despite being one of the most famous actors of her generation, with an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Boyhood and an Emmy for Medium, Arquette is almost unrecognisable in Escape From Dannemora – it’s arguably an even more dramatic physical transformation than Charlize Theron in Monster…

2 – Benicio del Toro and Paul Dano as her prison lovers

Oscar and Golden Globe winner Benicio Del Toro (Traffic, Sicario) plays convicted murderer Richard Matt, an artistic yet intimidating force within the prison, who masterminds the escape. As Newsday put it, “Del Toro once again establishes why he’s one of the great actors of his generation.”

Golden Globe and BAFTA nominee Paul Dano plays David Sweat, a convicted cop-killer who may have genuine feelings for Tilly and becomes a reluctant partner in Richard’s plot. The Sopranos, Little Miss Sunshine and 12 Years A Slave star is perfectly cast: as The Washington Post puts it, he “excels at playing meek-mannered creeps” and “brings a steady and almost feral quality to the role, succumbing to Tilly’s twisted mix of mothering role play.”

3 – Ben Stiller’s true calling may be as a director, not an actor

Ben Stiller won the Directors Guild of America Award for Escape at Dannemora, recognition from his peers that his true calling may be as a director, not an actor. No surprises there for anyone who saw his under-rated The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

As USA Today put it, “It may be hard for some viewers to reckon the star of Zoolander 2 with the excruciatingly raw and harrowing direction of Dannemora, but… Stiller shows himself more than able to direct drama, thrills and action in a series that relies on all three.”

Stiller’s experience in front of the camera has made him a favourite with his cast. As Arquette said when collecting her Golden Globe, “I love Ben Stiller… He’s a dream come true for actors.”

4 – Critics love it

The Los Angeles Times picked Escape at Dannemora as their best show of 2018, while the series has an 89% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 8/10 on IMDB.

The Washington Post praised it as “magnificently disturbing… a master work of true-crime dramatization, remarkable in that it feels true in a way that transcends the record of what happened.”

And USA Today hailed it as “the best possible version of a stranger-than-fiction truth told fictionally. The right director at the right time with the right actors and the right story can turn the salacious into the superb. It’s a feat almost as rare and as difficult as breaking out of prison.”

But wait, there’s more…

You shouldn’t need more reasons than that, but we could go on to mention that Escape at Dannemora also stars Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Bonnie Hunt and Emmy nominee David Morse, who were both in another prison classic, The Green Mile, and is written and executive produced by Writers Guild of America winner Brett Johnson (Mad Men) and Oscar nominee Michael Tolkin (The Player), who met while working as writers on another of our favourites, Ray Donovan.

Binge on Showmax


Epic Story Of Racheltjie De Beer headed For SA Cinemas In October 2019

The most anticipated Afrikaans film of the year, ‘The Story of Racheltjie de Beer’, releases nationwide in October 2019.

Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by writer and filmmaker Brett Michael Innes, the film tells the fabled story of Afrikaans family, the De Beers, who are forced to find shelter on a local farm in the Eastern Free State of South Africa in the 1800s. As winter arrives, and dark clouds laden with snow start to roll in over the Drakensberg Mountains, the scene is set for tragedy to strike.

“Known as an Afrikaans tale for all South Africans, the film is inspired by the cherished tale, passed down from generation to generation, of female folk hero Racheltjie de Beer,” says Innes. “When they became separated from the rest of their party, the young girl gave her life to save that of her little brother, making her mark on history as a youthful hero.”

“To accommodate the heroic emotional and visual nature of the story, we captured it in a cinematic style tailored for a big screen experience,” says director Matthys Boshoff. “The film has an intimate yet epic quality to it, from the sound and production design, to the music, camera work and the emotional journey that the characters and audience will go through. Much of this journey is personified through the transformation of the landscape from lush late summer to stark mid-winter, when it is covered in snow. The themes of life and death, loss, courage, sacrifice and love all come to the fore.”

Director Matthys Boshoff

What are the odds of survival against the powerful forces of the environment? As the father and his two children, and their shoddy wagon, trek through the harsh and unforgiving environment with the magnificent Drakensberg Mountains as the backdrop, it becomes clear how small people are in the face of nature.

“We didn’t romanticise the beauty of the mountains, but rather framed them in a way that expresses the madness, determination and incredible will and resilience it takes to journey with two children and an ox wagon in that challenging landscape,” says Boshoff. “They are tiny humans lost in the majesty of nature.”

The film was shot on location on the farm Tierhoek, in the rugged Eastern Free State. The filmmakers sought out a location that would express the harsh reality of living on a remote, isolated farm in the 1800s.

“We did not want to unnecessarily romanticise the period, but we were determined to find a setting that possessed a poetic quality worthy of the story,” Boshoff adds. “Situated in a valley surrounded by mountains, and with a farmhouse and outbuildings that were constructed in the 1870s, Tierhoek was perfect. The stone work is immaculate and there were few modern elements – no telephone lines or electricity, for example. The house had never been renovated and it possessed an old soul; there was moss growing on the walls and burn marks from the Anglo-Boer War were still present.”

Apart from the live action, the film’s visual effects are remarkable, certainly in the realm of Afrikaans filmmaking. “VFX work include elements such as storm clouds, a leopard, a baboon, a zebra, and falling snow,” says producer Johan Kruger. “To the best of my knowledge no other Afrikaans film has made use of VFX at this level, and possibly no other local film, at least not without major international participation. For a number of reasons, shooting in winter and in real snow conditions was not an option, but the real magic with VFX lies in the elements and images it adds to the story.”

There are more than 220 visual effects in the film, according to Boshoff. “We wanted to attribute human characteristics and moods to the weather, and the storm in particular. For that reason, we didn’t just replace clear skies with stock images of clouds; instead we built our own cloud systems that could be manipulated and moved around as we chose. This allowed us to give the storm a personality, to let it turn darker, move faster, threaten the landscape with lightning.

The stellar cast features Stian Bam (‘Modder en Bloed’, ‘Verraaiers’), Zonika De Vries (‘‘n Man Soos My Pa’, ‘Dis Koue Kos, Skat’), Marius Weyers (‘Dis Ek, Anna’, ‘Faan Se Trein’), Sandra Prinsloo (‘‘n Man Soos My Pa’, ‘‘n Pawpaw Vir My Darling’), Antoinette Louw (‘Bram Fischer’, ‘Nul Is Nie Niks Nie’), and Beate Opperman (‘Verraaiers’, ‘Roepman’). Starring in his first film role will be Johannes Jordaan in the role of Racheltjie’s little brother.

“The legend of Racheltjie de Beer is a tale for all time and many South Africans consider it part of their heritage,” says Helen Kuun, MD of Indigenous Film Distribution. “We are thrilled to be involved in bringing her story to life on the big screen for loyal fans and younger contemporary audiences alike.”


Deon Groot Releases New Album And Single

Deon Groot just released his brand new album and second single, EK SWEER and fans are loving it! His first single, Wyn, which was released during March 2019, hit the No. 1 position on radio charts nationwide and EK SWEER will definately not dissapoint!

According to Deon, the album, which took six months to write and another to produce, is dotted with tracks about good times and a little bit of love. “Each song for this album not only had to embody Namaqualand’s sounds, but also had to cater to the market without diminishing who we are as artists,” says Deon. “The greatest challenge was to ensure that we retain our uniqueness; that we don’t become followers. We had to remain true to ourselves without alienating listeners.”

For the artist, the aim is to foster an appreciation for their music by offering listeners strong lyrics and honest melodies – he wants people to enjoy the music for what it is.

He describes the album as simple yet poignant. “We should do as the Namaqualanders do – they teach us to dance, to get together, and to enjoy good conversation,” he says.

Deon is quick to admit that he has a favourite track. “Hemelpoorte is without a doubt my favourite song off the album. It shares a positive message of love and happiness, and the desire to have someone by your side that you would one day want to walk through heaven’s gates with.”

He can’t, however, single out which track he believes will be their greatest hit. “I have a feeling that whichever track we put out there will be well received and will reach great heights.”

Ultimately, he says, he just wants people to listen to the album. “I want people to listen to the album and realise who we are, and to enjoy each melody and lyric for what it is. Every song has a story to tell, and we want people to hear it.”

Deon, who released his debut album, Gee my Oor, in 2017, grew up around music. “My mom was a musician and used to play the piano at night when we were children. There was always music in our house,” he says.

He started working on creating his own music years ago. “Everyone thinks you become an overnight success. But I first picked up a pen in 2004. I played pubs constantly from 2007 and started doing my own thing in 2015. It has been nearly 15 years of hard work, believing, dreaming and building.”

Deon believes that every situation in life takes us somewhere – sorrow, love, happiness – and that we experience certain emotions in certain ways. This is what inspires him, and his experiences shape what he puts forth in his music; from the serious to the silly.

He is also an ardent animal lover who, had he not chosen music as a career, would have worked as a game ranger. “I believe that I belong in nature with the animals. Few people know that own a Green Tree Python called Ceimera. I adore animals.”

Asked what the music industry has taught him over the years, he answers: “Patience. Perseverance. And that you’ll never make it unless you yourself believe that you will. In fact, one of the toughest challenges in this industry is not to take what people say about your music too seriously. Good or bad. You have to be who you are and live for what you wish to achieve.”

He describes his ultimate career highlight as the day he joined the Universal family. “They took my sound and helped me create something genuine and unique – it has made me who I am today.”

Deon Groot’s new album is truly unique in its offering; from the writing to the sound, there simply isn’t anything like it on the market today.

Tracks on the album:

  • Wyn
  • Prikkel
  • Hemelpoorte
  • Pienk Blomme
  • Maak Soos In Namakwaland
  • Pienk Gin
  • Ek Sweer
  • Wicked Game
  • Piekfyn Vir My
  • You Shook Me All Night Long
  • Slaap Nou Sag

The album is now available on all digital platforms here:


Realness – An African Screenwriter’s Residency Announces 2019 Participants At Cannes Film Festival

Realness is an initiative that aims to uncover the depth of cinematic talent that the African continent has to offer. Realness provides a space for filmmakers to develop their authentic voices within an African context. Thus, creating an environment of diversity, but also finding familiarity in different layers of each writer’s experiences.

Left to right Marit Van Den Elshout (IFFR), Anne Lai (Sundance Institute), Elias Ribeiro (Realness), Bongiwe Selane (Realness) announce Realness participants at Cannes this week

Now in its 4th edition, Realness has hosted writer/directors from 13 different countries in Africa including Senegal (Rama Thiaw), Rwanda (Kantarama Gahigiri), Angola (Mario Fradique Bastos) and Kenya (Ng’endo Mukii).

Realness alumni have gone on to be selected to take part in the Sundance Directors and Screenwriters Labs, Biennale College Cinema and La Fabrique in Cannes. Two of the Realness projects have already been produced: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese (Lesotho) recently wrapped production on his film “This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection,” and will have its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival this coming September; and Hiwot Admasu’s “A Fool God” is currently in post-production.

“2019 has affirmed the core values of what Realness seeks to achieve – to unearth the wealth of African stories – real stories from the continent, told with an honest and unapologetic point of view by African talent.” says Bongiwe Selane, a partner at Realness for the last three years. Selane announced the 6 residents participating in Realness 2019 on Monday 20th May in Cannes:

  • Athi-Patra Ruga – “The Lunar Songbook”-South Africa
  • Beza Hailu Lemma – “The Last Tears of The Deceased”-Ethiopia
  • Fanyana Hlabangane – “The Spirit Guest”-South Africa
  • Hajooj Kuka – “African Titanics”-Sudan
  • Iman Djionne- “Coura+Ouleye”- Senegal
  • Silas Miami – “Miles”-Kenya

The 6 projects were chosen by an international panel of 16 world cinema stakeholders including Efuru Flowers (Flourishing Films), agent Anthony Mestriner (Cassarato Ramsay & Associates), Dominique Welinksi from DW and Production and Development executive for Indigenous Films, Thandeka Zwana.

“The 2019 group for Realness crosses Africa from East to West. I can hear new strong voices, loud ones. A couple of directors already did a 1st feature which did travel across the world and I’m sure their international experience will really benefit the residency. I would like to thank Realness for allowing me to discover new talents, stories and voices.” says Welinski.

The 4th Edition’s participants will begin their journey at the idyllic Nirox Foundation residence and sculpture park in the Cradle of Humankind on the 11th of June. Over the course of 6 weeks, the residents will be furnished with the resources and mentorship that will empower them to create their best work. They will also attend this year’s 10th Durban FilmMart (19 – 22 July) during the 40th Durban International Film Festival to publicly present their projects to the industry

Elias Ribeiro, founder of Realness, had a big announcement to make at Cannes on the 19th of May: Creative Producer Indaba. “Indaba has been met with great enthusiasm by our Industry peers. We have big dreams, we are unfolding Realness into an institute inspired by Sundance Institute within the African context, which not only caters to writers, directors and producers, but in future also nurtures professionals in other disciplines of film, such as curation, production design, sound and cinematography, moreover, we intend to structure a film fund to help finance the filmmakers and projects we support.” says Ribeiro.

Realness is an initiative by Urucu Media in partnership with Nirox Foundation, Berlinale Talents, Durban FilmMart, The Durban International Film Festival, Durban Talents, Institute Français, The French Institute of South Africa, TorinoFilmLab, EAVE Producer’s Workshop, Locarno Filmmaker’s Academy, CNC (Le Centre National du Cinéma et de L’image Animée), Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF Filmmaker Lab, Robert Bosch Stiftung, Cocoon Productions and Deuxieme Ligne Films.

More information about the 2019 Residents and their projects can be found on the Realness Website: