Film Review

Dust : Review

From writer and director Pieter du Plesis, in the exciting South African film Dust we get a look into a desolate land, where Rachel (Shana Mans in her feature film debut) and her family are seeking respite from the harshness of the world.

Shana Mans as Rachel and David Butler as David

Rachel, her father David (David Butler – Life is Wild, Generations, Binnerlanders), and Isaac (Christian Gous in his feature film debut), enroute to a fabled better land, encounter a family living on a farm run with religious ideology by Janice (Michelle Bradshaw – The Wild, Isidingo, Isibaya). It is here where the story takes a dark turn, and each Rachel will need to dig deep, face her inner most fears, and formulate a way to keep those dear to her safe while navigating the complex ensemble of characters at the farm. From little stirrings at first, the story progresses to life or death choices by those driven beyond their breaking points.

The story, while simple enough on the surface, includes many layers which beg the viewer to ask “what if”, placing themselves in the situations of each on-screen character, weighing decisions and beliefs. The undulating journeys we get to witness, that of each family member, the push by Janice to unite the two groups pushing the unwilling Rachel and the outwardly timid Caleb (Kaz McFadden – Strikdas, Knysna, Erfsondes), the drive to protect family and legacy, build a palpable tension that that culminates in the film’s adrenaline filled climax.

Still from Dust

Mans excels in her role as Rachel, conveying a plethora of emotion and intent, by bringing a stillness to the character that on-screen says so much about the unfurling story to the viewer, breathing life into a tormented backstory that alludes to traumatic events, and all the while leading a talented cast.

Dust has a diverse group of characters, playing out a multi-layered story that will keep viewers enthralled to the very end. The talented cast brings life to the ensemble characters, providing many nuances, emotion, and hints at hardships endured prior to where the films story beings. The film is one of those gems that shows South Africa is indeed a player on the international stage of filmmaking. From the very start, the film grips the viewer, outpacing any guesses one might hazard against plot, all as a story of intense emotion and inner turmoil unfolds.

Dust will be available on DStv BoxOffice, 9 October 2020

Film Review

How To Steal A Country (Showmax): Review

“They came here as traders. They sold shoes out of the boot of their car… And they left here as multi-billionaires.” – Ferial Haffajee

From Rehad Desai, the Emmy-winning director of ‘Miners Shot Down’, One World Human Rights Film Festival winner ‘Everything Must Fall’, we are now presented with the story all South Africans lived through, and most fought against, the Zuma / Gupta scandal How To Steal A Country.

Covering the journey of many of the current social economic issues in South Africa, from their sordid inception to the fallout we are now left with, touching everyone who lives in the country, this documentary is sure to stir emotion, evoke anger, rage, and perhaps leave one feeling a sense of helplessness at the fact that to date, there have been no prosecutions or restitution for any of the long list of accusations.

The documentary feature covers the Gupta family, their rise to great wealth and influence in South Africa, and covers the Zumas with the former disgraced president, his family, and the ruling ANC party’s several ministers put into positions where they could exact influence over decisions benefiting the Gupta and Zuma allience.

In the background, we are given an insight into a group of journalists who worked tirelessly, and at great risk of peril, to expose the truth, how they were harassed by pseudo-political groups, threatened, attacked.

How To Steal A Country is bound to stir debate amongst viewers, and yet is most certainly a piece of information summary that would serve everyone well to versed in, as the ramifications of all the acts and ventures described in the feature continue to play out.

A well packaged documentary, How To Steal A Country streams on Showmax from 23 April 2020.

Film online Review

Extraction (Netflix): Review

Extraction (Out Of The FIre) is directed by Sam Hargrave, who hails more from the stunt world than directing, and who’s credit list includes several of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films, The Hunger Games series, and a plethora of other well known films and television series. The film is written by Joe Russo, known best for his producing several of the MCU films.

We are introduced to Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth – Avengers: End Game, Thor: Ragnarok), a mercenary for hire, and like so many, fulfils the trope of struggling with his own demons of the past. Yet, when it comes down to business, he is ready to mete out swift and lethal justice to those who stand in the way of his mission objective. Rake has been enlisted to rescue the kidnapped son of an international crime boss, who now sits in prison.

Bringing us a story that is simple to follow, devoid of intricate plot twists, while still delivering satisfying action. There are a handful of cliches in the film, but unless one takes cognisance of those, they drift on by without detracting from the main narrative.

Action scenes have certainly had input from those in the known, and been helmed by those in the know, with both a knowledge and affinity for the genre. The film dispenses a healthy serving of action scenes, aptly located in areas that instil a feeling of unease in the viewer, and coupled with high impact cinematics.

Providing great escapism, a rush of adrenaline, and a fast paced ride, extraction is sure to thrill fans of the action genre, while providing some moments of escapism.

Extraction makes its online debut on Netflix South Africa on 24 April 2020

Film Review

Moffie : Review

A moffie, a person who is weak, effeminate, gay. A way of life deemed evil, illegal, persons shunned as outcasts, usually facing aggression and anger.

Set in 1981 South Africa, we join sixteen year old Nicholas van der Swart (Kai Luke Brümmer) in the eve of his national service conscription. A time that every white male youth in the Republic had to endure, doing their duty against the terrorist and communist threat.

Based on the book by André-Carl van der Merwe, Moffie tells a tale known to many, but this telling does not come down on either side, neither pushing for or against the cause of the designated moffies. The film treats the issue of national service much the same, being neither for nor against, just telling the fact that many young men went off to ‘The Border’ and came back changed, or not at all.

The story feels more like we’re following a series of events, ticking a series of checkboxes, rather than being taken on an emotional journey. While one can not fault those said checkboxes, as they cover aspects of almost every story told by those who where there, on the border, fighting for their country, the story of Nicholas is lacking that certain something, to draw one in, make one care for the character, understand the time.

From a war perspective, we are treated to very little action. A mere suggestion of the violence experienced on patrol is given, but feels merely as a stop along the way to ticking yet one more checkbox. Not forgetting the homosexual aspect of the film, this makes more appearances than the violence of war. But troops were all treated like nothings when they first start their basic training, and most time the film depicts this equal opportunity bad treatment, rather than the much worse treatment someone of the day would have thrust upon them.

Moffie tells the story of a group ostracised back in a time when many expected conformity, but while telling the story, it is merely taking one from event to event, reminding those who were actually there, of lines from stories or anecdotes they might tell. Had it delved deeper, got the audience invested in taking a side, it would have made for a much more powerful tale. Sadly, it comes down squarely in the middle of each topic, and its own potential to be great rather than average.

Moffie opens 13 March 2020 in South African cinemas.

Interview With Oliver Hermanus

What inspired you to adapt André-Carl van der Merwe’s iconic memoir?

When I first read the book I was quite taken by the texture and detail it told of this part of our history. I did not know about the treatment of gay conscripts, about psychiatric Ward 22 or the damage that
the system did to so many men and I felt very strongly that there was a power to Moffie that needed to be told on a cinema screen.

What was it about the story that resonated with you?

At the centre of this film there is a word: Moffie. Any gay man living in South Africa knows this word and has a relationship with it. It’s a weapon that has been used against us for so long. I felt a strong
pull to explore my own history with this word – which ended up being a scene in the film. I think it was the want to denuclearise, to reform this word that was at the heart of my decision to make this film.

Issues of identity are and sexuality are more pertinent today than they were in 1981, when the story takes place, do you agree?

Absolutely. We are living in a global culture where we still see the persecution of the LGBT community all over the world. At the same time, never before has the voice of this global community been more
heard. A film like Moffie is there to remind us of what has come before, what we have endured and suffered through and why it is important to never stop being vocal and proud.

For some, Moffie has a derogatory meaning, to others it’s a term of endearment. How do you see it?

I see it as a weapon. I avoid using the word. It still has stigma for me and making this film allowed me to talk to other gay men about their relationship with this word. For most, I think, it still carries pain. I
am all for the act of appropriating it for good but like the book, I hope that having it as the title of the film will go some way to eroding the word’s toxicity.

With Skoonheid you delved in the psyche of a young man who becomes the object of desire of an older man, with Moffie you explore the sexuality of a gay man imprisoned by society and the laws of the apartheid government. What are your views on this?

Skoonheid was about repression and self-loathing where I would say that Moffie is about what comes before shame and indoctrination. The two films will of course go hand in hand, one might even say
that Moffie plays as a prequel but I think their messages are very different and as much as Moffie is about a gay man’s journey through the SADF (South African Defense Force), it is also the journey of an entire generation of white men, gay and straight. The film rests its attention on them all.

Was it a difficult process from idea to screen? What were the challenges?

This has been a four-year journey! I would say that the major obstacle was the casting process. Because the film’s characters are all 18 or so, it’s a tough age group to cast. We spent more than a
year finding our core cast and were quite blown away by the unseen talent in South Africa.’

Tell me about the cast and how you approached them to bring the characters to life?

The cast are made up of high school students, trained actors, untrained actors and even non-actors. They spent a good amount of time with a military advisor who put them through an SADF boot camp. They learnt how to shoot R1 rifles and of course they we were taught how to drill. I then spent a few weeks rehearsing with them in Cape Town and beyond that tried to fill their heads with as much
history about the time as I could.

What do you hope audiences will get from watching Moffie?

I hope audiences will get an visceral experience. The film is heartfelt and emotive. No doubt, for some, it will conjure up memories of their own time in the military but most of all I think the film is a bit
of tearjerker, so perhaps some tears?”

Tell me about some of the issues regarding being a Moffie that you deal with in the film?

The film’s primary focus is masculinity. It explores the way that white South African men have been made for over a century. How the apartheid system, the army and the conservative nature of this
country fed young boys an ideology of superiority and hate.

Being a moffie in this context meant being a crime, being a problem, a mistake. How did you approach these issues as a filmmaker?

With a lot of research, ha-ha! For me, personally, it was sticking to the core idea that this was a system of hate and separation, and the intention of the conscription was to reinforce and protect that
system. I want to show that process through the film, letting an audience witness and experience the indoctrination.

Why do you think it was so difficult for young conscripted men to deal with their gayness during this period in South African history?

Because of the simple fact that it was deemed criminal and it was dangerous. The society at that time was determined to keep gay men and women in the closet.

Do you think it has changed much, even with the new rainbow nation constitutional support?

In the army, I am not too sure. But in the general public, the has been a change. I guess the simple fact that I can make a film like this is testament to that.

Being gay has always been an issue when it comes to the military internationally. Why do you think this milieu makes it so confrontational?

I think it is the nature of the army – it is an inherently masculine, heterosexual space and is, to a large degree, inhabited by men. I think that with the context comes an expectation and an assumption
that all men in the military should want to be heteronormative. Of course, we have now seen how that is changing.

Oliver Hermanus was born in Cape Town, South Africa, on 26 May, 1983, completed his Master of Arts degree at the London Film School and has won numerous awards for his work all over the world.

Film Review

Sonic The Hedgehog – Review

A Japanese video game launched back in 1991 for the Sega Genesis, Sonic The Hedgehog, has finally had a game to film conversion. Something not many games actually get right. Sonic would become the mascot of Sega. Some years later a two part video animation was released as a means to promote the release of Sonic on the new Sega Dreamcast, although it was felt this was more for fans of the digital hedgehog, rather than a wider audience.

In this latest outing, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden – X-Men: Days of Future Past, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues), a cop from a small, peaceful town discovers a small, extremely fast, hedgehog (Ben Schwartz – The Walk). Having a big heart, and some persuasion, he agrees to help this little fella, and save him from evil genius Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey – Kick-Ass 2).

Sonic The Hedgehog succeeds where so many films of games have failed. It is a fun, exciting, and entertaining romp. It is a nostalgic escape from the world, that while it has a great story at its core, still does not try to hard to take itself too seriously, and this is where Carrey pull of a masterful incarnation of the evil doctor. He is perfectly cast and suited for the role. One doesn’t know whether to cheer him on, or cheer his demise.

Sonic The Hedgehog will appeal to both fans of the original game, and a new audience of the younger generation. A family outing that is sure to spawn a sequel, if not yet another release of the game.

Sonic the Hedgehog opens 21 February 2020 in South African cinemas.