The film tackles toxic masculinity and gender-based violence issues in South Africa.

Intsimbi is an isiZulu short film which follows protagonist Zweli (Lizwi Vilakazi), as he spends his days in Soweto in his newlypurchased red Mercedes Benz. The film premiered on Wednesday, April 7, and had a second screening on Sunday, April 11, at the Market Theatre in Newtown, which I attended. The film seeks to explore social issues that are prevalent in South African society such as toxic masculinity and gender-based violence through its swift storytelling techniques. 

It is a moderately-paced film which centres around Zweligood-natured individual in his mid-20s who seeks to live a life away from drama. This low key life is disrupted by his crime-chasing neighbourhood friend Mazakaza (Kabelo Lucas) who strings Zweli along on his quest to retrieve money owed to him by someone in the township. 

The production of Intsimbi is dominated by a single camera shot, similar to the minimalistic angle used in Locke, which takes us on the journey from the perspective of Zweli’s new car. The shot makes the audience feel as if they are in the car with Zweli and his various passengers. The placement of another camera on the inside of the passenger door allows for a swinging motion as passengers enter and exit the vehicle, giving off a vivid reallife experience of entering and exiting the vehicle.  

An interesting detail introduced in the opening scene is a red bandana wrapped around the mirror of Zweli’s car, which is an artefact of the ‘Bloods’ gang of America and foreshadows the gangster element that is to come in the film. Director Nhlakanipho Mashinini does well to represent the American gangster trope in the movie, specifically through the character Mazakaza, who has been in and out of jail, shooting bullets in the air as the friends drive through Soweto, and later when he instructs Zweli to “stay here and keep the engine running”, which is a line often mentioned in American heist films. This is rounded off by the executionstyle killing of a female character later in the film. 

The film’s characters, who manifest the binary of male and female youth, are introduced as passengers who take turns sitting in the front seat of the vehicle as Zweli drives through the streets of Soweto to show off his new purchase. The first person being Zweli’s girlfriend Lesedi, played by Wits alumnus, Nomazizi Phakamile, who is the central female character. She symbolises an often criticised type of woman in South Africa, one who is dependent on her boyfriend to fund her lifestyle and is commonly referred to as a ‘gold-digger’.  

The film does well to represent the archetype of a man in contemporary South Africa, one who is fueled by toxic masculinity and who stereotypes all women, regardless of their age and background. This is embodied by Mazakaza who is misogynistic and seeks to make his hate for women known through a colourful plethora of slurs he uses in reference to women. The film highlights the dangers of weaponising such assumptions, where a violent outburst on the role and value of women in society leads up to Mazakaza’s abduction of a mysterious female character who is later revealed to be Zweli’s own girlfriend.  

Whilst the film explored stereotypes facing the youth in South Africa in a riveting manner, it did leave some unanswered questions in its plot. The biggest one being when an unnamed woman is abducted by Mazakaza and put into the boot of Zweli’s car. The film later reveals who she is but fails to explain why she was abducted and why she was eventually killed. 

Intsimbi succeeds in its effort to create a sense of awareness of the current issues plaguing the young men in South Africa, and the adverse effects it has on women and the dangers this can pose in the real world. The film is expected to be released online later this year. 

VUVU RATING: 7.5/10 

FEATURED IMAGE: The official film poster of isiZulu short film, Intsimbi. Photo: Facebook.