It’s been a breakout year for black filmmaking with the Oscar’s Best Picture winner, Moonlight, paving the way for stories centred on black masculinity. Both a critical and commercial success, the film brilliantly explores how one’s environment and experiences can shape who that person becomes. On top of that, the Oscars made history this year with the most black winners ever.
In a similar vein, South African director and writer Charlie Vundla’s impressive new film ‘The Tribe’ serves as an affirmation that there is space for good storytelling of black men’s lives too. Vundla has created well-developed and nuanced characters who are both intellectually enlightening as well as entertaining.
‘The Tribe’ examines the complexities of a troubled marriage. It’s a tale about a young university professor named Smanga (Vundla) who is saved from self-destruction by a former school friend, and begins a journey to rescue his house, his marriage and his life. The film releases on 17 March 2017.
Also starring in the much-anticipated film is actress and producer Terry Pheto, who plays the role of Smanga’s disheartened wife Laura. It is the second time that the two celebrities are teaming up on the big screen, following How to Steal 2 Million, an action film written and directed by Vundla and starring Pheto, which was released in 2011, to commercial and critical acclaim.
Pheto, who made her acting debut in 2005 in the multi award-winning Tsotsi, takes on the role of a beautiful but troubled woman. Having often relied on her looks to get through life, she has complex self-worth issues. She married Smanga because he was the first to see that beyond her looks, she is an intelligent woman. Coupled with her lingering depression, Smanga’s discovery that he is infertile leads Laura to betray him. An academic genius, he is broken by her behaviour and he sinks into alcoholic oblivion.
In the role of Smanga’s old friend Jon, a golden boy with the gift of the gab, is Louis Roux. Jon has always been able to talk his way out of anything. A life coach by profession, he uses his looks and charm to wheedle himself into people’s lives. Shortly after Jon moves in with Smanga, Laura returns and thus begins a unique living experiment.
“In the modern world, where every middle-class child is told from day one that they’re special, can do anything and have everything, what happens when that child grows up and realises the painful truth that his parents lied?” Vundla asks.
“I wanted to dig below the surface to find the failures inherent in middle-class entitlement,” he adds. ‘The Tribe’ is a realistic, character-driven story that examines what it is to be human through the universal struggle to survive when things don’t simply go our way, and we are forced to accept imperfections in ourselves and those around us.”
The film has screened at several festivals, including Toronto International Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Africa International Film Festival (Best Actor award: Charlie Vundla), Pan African Film Festival Los Angeles, Atlanta Film Festival, New York African Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, and Raindance Film Festival in the UK.
The Tribe is produced by House Rising Pictures and Siascope, in association with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
It is distributed in South Africa by Indigenous Film Distribution.