Movie review – Boers, Brits and a sideshow of blacks

2014-11-30 18:00

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Leading Lady

(Ster-Kinekor)

Director: Henk Pretorius

Featuring: Katie McGrath, Bok van Blerk, Brümilda van Rensburg

Leading Lady, a new South African romcom by director Henk Pretorius, recently screened at one of the world’s biggest movie gatherings – the Seattle International Film Festival (Siff).

I’m sure the Americans just lapped it up. It’s a quirky, charming little offering from exotic Africa, where whites are heroes and blacks clean the house.

In fact, Americans seem to like this kind of fare so much that Pretorius’ previous movie, Fanie Fourie’s Lobola, won the 2013 Siff Golden Space Needle Award for best film.

But the movie’s characters are nothing more than caricatures.

Bok van Blerk plays the stoic but deep leading man (the Yanks would probably describe his character as an “Afrikaans Josh Duhamel”); Katie McGrath plays an actress from London who arrives in “Africa” wearing a leopard-print headscarf and khakis; Gil Bellows plays the asshole British movie director; and Mary Twala plays the aged, sassy black maid who has deep love for the white family whose house she has spent her entire life cleaning.

Perhaps the reason the US has granted this movie so much favour is because it in no way challenges the notion that we’re all just living together in a rainbow dream of happiness and giggles.

Look, I don’t want to slate the flick completely – at least Pretorius has veered away slightly from the slapstick that was Fanie Fourie’s Lobola, and despite having a limited range of expressions, Afrikaans singer Van Blerk wasn’t half bad as the lead.

I think the production team can be proud of achieving success with a presumably limited budget, but it worries me that these are the movies that now represent what the South African film industry can offer, along with those rural Aids dramas and anything Mandela.

Directors like Pretorius have to deliver this kind of light, frothy shlock, or they won’t be able to put bread on the table. Leading Lady did what it was supposed to do – deliver feel-good amusement and romance.

Let’s face it, US and even South Africa audiences are not rushing to the box office for movies that show the gritty truth. Perhaps Leading Lady is all we can stomach right now.

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Exotic Africa

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