Sodium Day (2022) Production Notes


Director: Riaz Solker
Writer(s): Riaz Solker
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Release Date: 2022-04-22
Release Status: Complete

In a comedy-drama with tragic undertones, Sodium Day tells the story of a neglected Matric class in a dilapidated public school on the Cape Flats. In the space of a single day, we witness how they navigate their way through absent teachers, racial tensions, a fellow student gone missing, and the threat of local gangsters.

As the class of a nearby private school arrives for a cultural exchange program, the ensuing mischief only briefly provides a veil for the latent tensions, before it all combusts as the students are pushed to their limits - a day they will forever remember as Sodium Day.


SYNOPSIS

Sodium Day is a slice-of-life film about a tumultuous day in the life of a mixed bag of students who attend a poor government school on the Cape Flats. The day abruptly begins with three pupils setting off an explosion with a chunk of sodium they stole from the science lab, much to the aggravation of their overwhelmed Headmaster.

The rebellious students are from Grade 12Y of John Shelby High School – the only class doing Mathematics at a Matric level, yet they do not currently have a Maths teacher and it is already September. Six woefully unqualified temps have already come and gone during the year, leaving everyone hopelessly unprepared for the final exam, which is mere weeks away. The class largely consists of disenfranchised and cynical black and coloured students, and the latent racism that still exists in this environment often bubbles to the surface.

A newly qualified white substitute teacher, bright-eyed and unsuspecting, is thrust into the class of 12Y to teach Maths, despite the fact that he arrived to teach History and English. As he fumbles his way through class, the mischievous and petulant nature of 12Y is revealed.

The day is further complicated by the arrival of a teacher and a group of students from a rich, upper-class private school, whose day-long visit is part of a cultural exchange programme that no-one at John Shelby High was expecting. Consequently, they are shunted around from class to class by jaded, burnt out teachers who don’t want interlopers in their classrooms, until they land up at 12Y – since the substitute teacher doesn’t know any better. With such a stark contrast in backgrounds, it isn’t long before a clash of approaches, cultures and personalities ensues.

Unbeknownst to the visitors, the mood of 12Y is under particular strain on this day. One of their peers, Simone, didn’t show up at school, and there is a rumour going around that a dead body that fits her description was found on a field close to where she lives. There is also a local gangster circling the school, who is looking to settle a score with one of the learners of 12Y, whom he mistakenly believes slept with his girlfriend.

All these ingredients combine to create Sodium Day: a day that started with a literal explosion and ends with a different kind of eruption – one coming from a volatile mix of racism, culture clash, gangster invasion, and the impending bad news about Simone, as the last strained strands of the youthful innocence and optimism of 12Y are put to the test.

ABOUT THE WRITER & DIRECTOR

Riaz Solker has worked in various capacities as a writer, director, producer, actor and lecturer over the past twenty years in the South African film industry. Some of his credits include an eight-part mini-series Here’s to Good Times, which he wrote and directed, as well as the short film, Past Tense, which screened at Cannes Film Festival and placed third out of 22 000 entries worldwide at the 48 Hour Film competition.

Riaz spent many years teaching Directing and Acting at City Varsity Cape Town, and during this time he witnessed an abundance of young talent emerging in South Africa. It was through preparing and nurturing acting students for their future careers that Riaz began conceiving the idea that would utilize the wealth of talent in front of him. Sodium Day is his first feature film – a story that draws on his own personal experiences in the government education system, and is filled with characters and depictions that reflect the new South Africa and its struggles.

CAST

Sodium Day presented a number of young actors their first opportunity to appear in a feature film. The majority were either currently studying or had just completed their acting courses at the time of production. The ensemble nature of the story meant screen time was shared between many different actors – a complete list and their roles appears below.

Apart from the young ensemble cast, Riaz Solker centred the film around a prominent actor in Charlton George, who plays the role of Mr Dorsey, the school Headmaster.

Charlton George

As a vastly experienced actor on both the stage and in front of camera, Charlton George has been performing for over twenty years in South Africa. He is perhaps best known for his starring role as Virgil Cloete in the kykNET drama series Sara se Geheim, as well as his performances in the television series Fynskrif, Waterfront, and Isidingo.

He also starred in the award-winning local feature Shooting Bokkie in 2003, and has made many subsequent appearances in recent feature films, including Four Corners, Noem My Skollie, Endless River, and The Number.

KEY CREW

Director of Photography – CHRISTIAN DENSLOW

Working between Africa, Asia and Europe, Christian Denslow has been an active cinematographer in the commercial industry for several years, helming projects for Giant Films, Siverlining Productions and Moonlighting, to name a few. He has lensed commercials for major brands including Coca Cola and Chevrolet in recent years.

Christian is also dedicated to creating compelling narrative work, which has seen him work on numerous short films, as well as lens 2nd Unit on Five Fingers for Marseilles. More recent work has seen him team up with Morgan Neville, the Academy Award-winning director of Five Feet From Stardom.

Post Production Sound & Composition – NEIL LEACHMAN

A man of many talents, Neil Leachman has broad experience across sound editing and design, music composition and mixing, alongside his directing and acting abilities on both stage and screen. Neil met Riaz whilst they were both lecturing at CityVarsity Cape Town, and have been keen collaborators ever since.

Neil is currently Senior Mix Engineer at Pressure Cooker Studios in Cape Town, where he works on both commercial and narrative projects, including the recent This is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection.

VFX & Colourist – SIMON ANTONELLI

Another former lecturing colleague of Riaz Solker, Simon has been active in post-production for many years, utilising his skills as an editor and colourist for both commercial and narrative projects. As a frequent collaborator with Riaz Solker, he has worked on the director’s previous series, Here’s to Good Times, as well as his award-winning short film, Past Tense. Simon has also been involved in many commercial projects with BENCHfilms, as well as their successful short film, TAXIING.