This fast-paced, humorous and warm film by director SA Oliver Schmitz has taken a while to come home. Released in 2000, it has languished at various overseas film festivals, and is currently listed on the Cannes Film Fest site as Canadian - bizarre! Finally an SA release date is set for May 2.
Sox Moraka (Tony Kgoroge) plays an up and coming black actor competing for the role of a gang leader. At his audition, he freezes - though born in Soweto, he's lost touch with the township. He stays in a trendy Rosebank apartment and lives in the thin vein of Jo'burg metropolitan rainbow nationhood with his British girlfriend.
Sox returns to the ghetto to learn how to be a gangster. There he finds his long lost uncle, a lover and guide in Grace (beautifully played by Poshidi Motswega) and his gangster role model in an old school friend, Bra Zama (Rapulana Seiphemo). Zama, now the leader of a car hijack outfit, teaches Sox to survive in the real South Africa, while Sox teaches Zama to play his part better.
The film is chopped into sub-sections with naff subtitles indicating each stage in Sox's self-rediscovery process. It reaches a climax of sorts when the line between acting and reality is tragically erased, resulting in a hole in the stomach of Zama's best friend. This in turn leads to a massive plot-hole of a finale, something I'd normally expect from a bad American movie. Perhaps the ending is intended allegorically, but few films really get away with flaunting a known flaw.
It's an exiting film. A film that gave me the strongest sense I've ever had from a South African feature of really being here and being represented since Les Blair's JUMP THE GUN.
HIJACK STORIES avoids the visual and spoken cliches of setting, race and so on that plague South African films. The dialogue feels real - the actors seem on the whole natural in front of the camera. Jozi is the dirty, gorgeous and grimily romantic LA-of-Africa in establishing shots of the highways and cityscapes. Race and conflicts are dealt with through that unique brew of frankness, anger, humour and kinship that real South Africans feel every day.
For all its flaws, this film is not to be missed. It's genuine entertainment - it's got SVL, plus politics, and it's sweetened with many funny moments. We need to make more movies like it.
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