Movie Review: Sew The Winter to my Skin

Directed by: Jahmil X.T Qubeka

Starring: Ezra Mabengeza, Zolisa Xaluva, Mandisa Nduna, Kandyse McClure

Genre: Western

Vuvu rating: 6/10

“Sew the Winter to My Skin” (2018), which was put forward as South Africa’s Foreign Language entry to the 2019 Academy Awards, is a movie that uses classic western tropes and mythology to tell its story. The movie is set in 1940s Western Cape, South Africa, and tells the story of real-life John Kepe, known as ‘the Samson of the Boschberg’ who notoriously stole food and livestock from nearby farms until 1951 when he was convicted of killing a shepherd named Dirk Goliath and sentenced to death.

Director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka chooses to tell the story with minimal dialogue, leaving the narrative heavily dependent on visual clues and the musical score. Rather than focus on the life of Kepe, Qubeka focuses more on the myth and presents Kepe as a Robin Hood type figure who steals live sheep from the farm of Nazi-sympathizer and failing sheep farmer, Mr Botha, and gives them to his poor community.  The audience is treated to scenes of Kepe narrowly dodging bullets from white farmers in pursuit of him, hanging off the side of a cliff while carrying a sheep, and hiding in a well-kitted out secret cave.

Qubeka uses Kepe as a lens to tell the wider story of Apartheid and racial oppression. The movie explores the tensions between the white Afrikaaner farmers who are quick to use violence to cement their power, and the poor black communities near them who face the brunt of it. Kepe then emerges as a symbol of black resistance. The movie ends with Verwoed’s description of Apartheid as a “policy of good neighbourliness” and the stark irony of this quote is explored throughout the film.

The lack of dialogue can at times make the movie unclear. It also means that character’s motivations are unexplored, and they are left as two-dimensional caricatures. This is most obvious with Zolisa Xaluva’s depiction of the villain, who is a black man that carries out racial violence against other black people, and the women in the film, who are given little to do other than cry in pain.

While it is beautifully shot, the Western-style film sacrifices clear storytelling for flair which may make it inaccessible to many. It is also at times, quite violent given its 13 age restriction. Audiences who enjoy arthouse-type movies will greatly appreciate the layered storytelling, symbolism, and interesting cinematic techniques of this film.

FEATURED IMAGE: Sew the winter to my skin is South Africa’s entry to the 2019 Academy Awards
Photo: Provided



Movie review: Matwetwe

By Onke Ngcuka

Cast: Anastasia Augustus, Lungile Cindi, Mbeko Cindi, Karabo Dikolomela, Neo Erasmus, Sibusiso Khwinana, Kgomotso Lediga, Mimi Mamabolo

Director: Kagiso Lediga

Genre: Comedy

Vuvu rating: 6.5/10

Do what is necessary to afford yourself a better life. This is the message that is humorously highlighted by director Kagiso Lediga in his film, Matwetwe (Wizard), which was released in 17 South African cinemas on Friday, January 25.

The movie tells the story of two best friends, Lefa (Sibusiso Khwinana) and Papi (Tebatso Mashishi) that have just matriculated. The comedy follows the best friends on New Year’s Eve in their township, Atteridgeville, as they try and make money from the weed that they grow, which they name ‘Matwetwe’.

Lefa, the reserved one of the two, has been accepted into Wits University to study botany, an achievement highly celebrated by the community. Papi on the other hand, who considers himself a ladies’ man – a fact true only to himself – hopes to make a quick buck here and there to spend on the “good life” – the ladies and alcohol.

Narrated by three township dwellers, the movie invites the audience along the hilarious adventure of the two young men as they come across several kasi characters, including murderers, the township’s ‘mad man’ and the gangsters trying to get their hands onto the boys’ product.

Lediga, who also wrote the movie, does a great job on the character sketches as they bring the township to life, and give the audience greater insight into kasi culture. While the movie did well on the character sketches, this was at the expense of the storyline which fell short.

The comedic talent of Lediga shines bright in the comedy as it uplifts the difficulties of transitioning into adulthood faced by the boys as they reach out towards independence. The young men’s relationship strengthens as they face challenges in selling their product, however, Lefa’s secret threatens this friendship, resulting in an unexpected turn of events.

The film came under fire on social media in the week of its premier for the lack of advertising from its executive producer and international DJ, Black Coffee. Regardless, the film did well in cinemas on its opening weekend January 25-27, as it came fourth at the South African box office, according to Screen Africa.  

Matwetwe is a good South African comedy. It isn’t great, but highlights that local is lekker. The film has been screened in the US at Urban World, the biggest genre festival in the US, Fantastic Festival, and International Film Festival Rotterdam in Europe. Matwetwe is expected to screen at more cinemas across the country.

FEATURED IMAGE: Matwetwe tells the story of two young men seeking to make better lives for themselves. Photo: Onke Ngcuka