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: Five Fingers for Marseilles

Cast: Vuyo Dabula, Kenneth Nkosi, Warren Masemola, Zethu Dlomo

Director: Michael Matthews

Vuvu rating: 6/10

Five Fingers for Marseilles has made history as the first South African western film and is due to premiere in the US later this year. It is the first feature film by South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTA) acclaimed director, Michael Matthews.

The film, which opened on April 6, follows five young friends who fight against the brutality of the apartheid era police officers in their small rural hometown, Marseilles. One of them, Tau (Vuyo Dabula) kills two police officers and is sentenced to 20 years in prison. After his release he returns to Marseilles to find that the rest of the five have taken up prominent positions in the community.  A new threat has taken control of the town forcing a reluctant Tau to band together with the five friends once again to save Marseilles.

The film explores themes of friendship and betrayal. It provides sharp social commentary on corruption, colonisation, and land, making it particularly relevant given the current land reform debates. It’s also a visually stunning film. Matthews emphasises the natural beauty of the town and rural Eastern Cape where the movie was shot, through sweeping establishing shots used throughout the film.

The movie takes easily recognisable tropes from western films and gives them a South African twist. The classic western saloon is replaced by a shebeen. There are fast draw shootouts, outlaws, and cowboy hats and riding boots which are worn next to Basotho blankets. The effect is a refreshing take on an otherwise outdated genre.

Five Fingers benefits greatly from having a strong cast and there are standout performances from Dabula, the lead, and the talented Warren Masemola, who brings much needed life and energy to the film.

While the movie is a visual feast, the story is lacking. The convoluted plot line is difficult to follow, making the film’s gory climax more confusing than emotive. The film also falls back on the lazy South African convention of pretending that language barriers don’t exist, so white Afrikaans speaking police officers are able to perfectly understand seSotho and isiXhosa that are spoken by other characters.

Perhaps the biggest sin of Five Fingers is its female representation. Lerato (Zethu Dlomo), is given substantially less screen time than her male counterparts, despite being one of the titular five. She is used as a catalyst for the main plot and then not given much else to do until the very end.

Despite its flaws, Five Fingers for Marseilles is a film to see if one wants something local and different.

FEATURED IMAGE: A poster of Five Fingers for Marseilles which is being screened at Cinema Nouveau at the Rosebank Mall
Photo: Naledi Mashishi


Movie Review: “Hidden Figures’: See what she becomes.



Starring: Taraji P. Henson , Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner

Vuvu Rating: 8/10

A fresh take on the history of African American female professionals who were geniuses in their respective fields of mathematics and engineering, ‘Hidden figures’ does justice to telling the story as happened.

Based on the true story of three African American women who broke barriers at the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA), “Hidden Figures” unearths a history that has not formed part of mainstream science history.  Set in Virginia, North America, 1961, the movie tells the tales of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson played by the award winning Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe respectively. The women, all mathematicians, were part of the segregated West Computing Group at NASA. They all worked together; until Johnson and Jackson were promoted to positions that often reminded them of the realities of being black and a woman in 1960s America.

Facing racial and gender prejudice from the beginning of the film to the end, the three refused to give up their struggle to prove their worth to all who doubted them.  Despite the focus on the lives of these women at NASA, the film is not short of the typical romantic and emotional twists and turns. In a romantic scene between Johnson and her then boyfriend, Mr Johnson, the latter finds himself in a puts his foot in his mouth, when he asks what Katherine does for a living. Explaining her role as a NASA mathematician, Johnson questions condescendingly, “They let women handle that kind of stuff?” Katherine retorts sharply, “Mr Johnson, if I were you, I would quit talking right now … I will have you know, I was the first Negro female student at the West Virginia University Graduate School. On any given day, I analyze the phenomena levels for air, displacement, friction and velocity and compute over ten thousands calculation by cosine, square root √ and lately analytics geometry, by hand. So, yes, they let women do something at NASA, Mr Johnson, and it’s not because we wear skirts but because we wear glasses.”

The minimalistic visuals corresponds with the narrative of the story, there is not much that is technically innovative in terms of the camera angles or lighting changes. However, the actors’ performances are effortless, including that of Kevin Coster, Kirstin Dunst and Kimberly Quinn. This is not unexpected because the film has been nominated for the annual Golden Globes and Academy Awards. It recently won the Outstanding Performance by cast members in motion picture at the Screen Actors Guild awards (SAGs). While receiving the award lead actress Henson said, “This story is of unity and this story is about what happens when we put our differences aside … Love wins.”

‘Hidden Figures’ is definitely a film that will inspire young girls to reach for the stars and beyond.  If you happen to have the time to watch the film, one can say that you will be in for an emotional rollercoaster ride.

That’s a wrap!

QUIET ON SET! Star and producer Joe Kazadi, director Cedric Wembe and the cinematographer on set prepping for a scene for the low budget student film The Missing Link.                              Photo: Provided

QUIET ON SET! Star and producer Joe Kazadi, director Cedric Wembe and the cinematographer on set prepping for a scene for the low budget student film The Missing Piece. Photo: Provided


THE AFROPOLITAN film independently produced by Witsies is nearing completion despite its low budget. The producer says this is due to careful planning and because everybody “came to do it with their hearts”.
The Missing Piece tells the story of a Congolese man named Joe who turns to a life of crime after losing his wife and child. The film also shows the relationship he forms with a little girl whose only companion is a teddy bear. The title of the film refers to the teddy bear.
When asked why people would want to watch their film, director Cedric Wembe said, “The problems and the issues at play in the movie are problems people face not only in South Africa but everywhere else.”
Joe Kazadi, the producer and star of the film, funded most of the film using his money which he set aside especially for the production.
He said, “Everybody came to do it with their hearts, no one came for the money.”
Despite the budget, Wembe said it was the aim of the crew to use the best equipment to make the best quality film people would want to see.
Wembe said the problem with making a film in Africa is always budgeting. There is never enough money to make a film in the “African context” especially when the production does not receive funding from external funders.

“Everybody came to do it with their hearts.”
Both Kazadi and Wembe have worked professionally in television and stage productions respectively but to them The Missing Link was different.
Kazadi said, “We [were] looking for the way forward. What was the positive and what was the negative and then we decided, yeah, we’ll do that.”
According to Kazadi, compared to other productions, this film had the most planning behind it.
“With the other productions we just rushed into it, we were not prepared mentally for it. That is why it [other productions] was not a full success,” he said.
The film is currently in post-production. Kazadi is looking to premiere the film at Wits University. They chose Wits because the film is primarily a student film. Students from Wits and AFDA film school in Auckland Park came together to write and shoot it.
“Ninety-five percent of people involved or 90 percent of the people [crew] are people who come from Wits,” Kazadi said.
Wembe and Kazadi want to take their film to the Ecrans Noir film festival in Cameroon, the Fespaco film festival in Burkina Faso and a film festival in Cape Town.
The trailer for the film has been released and is available on Wembe and Kazadi’s Facebook pages respectively.

The missing piece of the film puzzle

MR HOLLYWOOD: Joe Kazadi is the star and producer of the independent film, The Missing Piece, set in the Johannesburg CBD.                   Photo: Luke Matthews

MR HOLLYWOOD: Joe Kazadi is the star and producer of the independent film, The Missing Piece, set in the Johannesburg CBD. Photo: Luke Matthews

AN INDEPENDENT “Afropolitan” film about recovery and redemption will be shot in and around downtown Johannesburg during May.
The Missing Piece combines the talents of South African writer Cinga Maseti, Cameroonian director Cedric Wembe and Congolese producer/actor, Joe Kazadi. It tells the story of Joe (28), who has to find happiness again after losing his family.

“Life has totally taken the taste out of him. So he’s dry, dry, dry,” said Kazadi, who plays Joe.

The Missing Piece refers to a teddy bear owned by a little girl who befriends Joe. “This little girl is basically the only person that shows love to this guy. She smiles at him every time he comes to the park,” said Kazadi.

Their relationship turns when Joe breaks into a house in order to get something to eat, not realising it is the house in which the little girl lives.
Kazadi described the story as “beautiful” and said it was inspired by the married couple he used to live with. The story came from what he imagined life would be like after a man got married.

“I just wanted to show the people that there’s a lot that happens to a man after he has made that commitment.”

 [pullquote]”I was just trying to show that this guy [Joe] is going to find happiness through his own talent.”[/pullquote]

He was also inspired by the love people had for each other and he wanted to teach the audience we should accept one another. “We want a person because they either have a talent or they have something that you need. I was just trying to show that this guy [Joe] is going to find happiness through his own talent.”

The overall message of the film, according to Kazadi, is: “We must never give up. If you look at the whole story, this guy is dry, [the] life is out of him and, where he has lost hope, that’s when somebody come(s) from nowhere to pick him up.”

Kazadi came up with the original story, but did not write the script himself. The script was written by Maseti, a graduate of Afda film school in Auckland Park. Maseti, who graduated this year, has made several student films, one of which was shown at Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank at Afda’s annual graduation film festival.

Kazadi handed over scribe duties to Maseti because he wanted the script to be written by a professional. They were introduced by a mutual friend. Wembe, the director, has worked professionally in the industry. Kazadi met him when they were playing soccer.

Kazadi himself has worked professionally as an actor. He appeared in an American series, Strike Back, which showed locally on M-Net. He also appeared in Jacob’s Cross, Ekasi Stories and Generations.

Commenting on his attitude to the African film industry, Kazadi told Wits Vuvuzela, “I’m not so positive about the way we make films. I would really like it if everyone took this job seriously to show the world that we too can win awards and we have that ability to make great films.”

He did not believe Africa had achieved that yet.

The film will be shot in Bree street in Braamfontein and in Hillbrow. Shooting will start on May 1, and will premiere at the Wits School of Arts.
Kazadi said he hoped to take the film further. “We want to take this film to as many places as possible.”