A closer look at the new South African film Dora’s Peace

2016-09-04 05:59
Dora’s Peace

Film: Dora’s Peace

Director: Konstandino Kalarytis

Starring: Khabonina Qubeka, Hlubi Mboya

In Dora’s Peace, some old secrets come back to haunt gun-toting Hillbrow sex worker Dora, among them the script of the film.

Suffering a common South African movie malaise, it took eight years for Dora’s Peace to be made. Unfortunately, by the time many of our films hit the screen, they feel old.

But I don’t hate the film. There’s a lot to love about it and I’m hoping audiences support it. It tells a universal story and, if you’re into that Mzansi Magic fare, this is a great escape. Khabonina Qubeka (Dora) and Hlubi Mboya (Connie) are reason enough to buy a ticket.

This is Qubeka’s moment and she carries Dora’s Peace from beginning to end. Mboya, who plays a freaked-out drug user who sets off a chain of dramatic events that disrupts everyone’s lives, doesn’t get as much screen time.

Dora’s Peace

Fate deals Dora a hand she would rather have avoided when she must look after Peace (child star Paballo Koza), causing her to confront her past.

It’s a romping, action-packed story line and Qubeka’s a true heroine. Fans are going to love her in this.

Here comes the ‘but’ ... There are things about Dora’s Peace that make me deeply uneasy. One is that it’s dated – Hillbrow is no longer that romanticised place of black (and token white) sex workers and drug dealers on the streets. It’s a Pan-African community of betting totes and churches, with a different complexity despite the drugs. And the white male gaze in the film is unsettling.

Konstandino Kalarytis, the director, uses Stavros (Danny Keogh) as an archbaddie and plays out aspects of Greek culture in the film. That’s fine; it’s what he knows. But I get no sense that he really understands the black women’s lives he portrays.

There’s no cultural richness (Dora’s childhood scenes look lifted from a US reaper-in-the-corn flick) and no true scope for the actresses’ performances. They’re stereotypes and that’s fine, I guess, for an action flick, but it’s uncomfortable to see white men continuing to play out their action fantasies on black women’s bodies.

But don’t take my word for it. Go and see for yourself.


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