A beautiful piece of South African cinema

2013-07-29 00:00

OF Good Report, which echoes Lolita — the book by Russian author Vladimir Nabokov — follows the story of high school teacher Parker Sithole, who has an affair with his 16-year-old pupil, Nolitha Ngubane.

Living in a misogynistic society, the mentally troubled Parker is haunted by his late mother and becomes obsessed with Nolitha.

The film is shot in black and white and the audience never hears Parker speak. Director Jamil X.T. Qubeka said he chose the black-and-white format because he didn’t want to see all the blood. He said Parker had so much to say, he didn’t need words.

The result was that he became a metaphoric blackboard; people spoke at him and around him, further distancing him from the community.

Both Parker and Nolitha are victims of their circumstances, living in rural poverty. Nolitha, like many young girls in her situation, is attracted to Parker as a “sugar daddy” — a means to get money or material items that she could otherwise not afford. And Parker, who has always found himself a submissive victim, is able to be dominant.

He is constantly surrounded by powerful women and the mental flaws of his character are revealed through the power struggles he has with the women in his life.

The musical score, written by Philip Millar as a collaboration of work he had done with William Kentridge, was never meant for this film. But Qubeka insisted that it “spoke the language of the film”. The result is an eerie soundtrack that sounds uniquely South African, but does not stand apart from the film.

Another reason Qubeka gave for making his film black and white is that he wanted to give it a timeless feel. He said he had dreamt of making a cult movie.

It is my opinion that he has succeeded in this goal — the film will be remembered not only because of its banning, but because it is a beautiful piece of South African cinema.

Sitting in the theatre, I expected to see an exaggerated self-indulgent film, but what I saw was a masterpiece of art by a very talented young filmmaker. The film is highly recommended, not because of what it represents for freedom of expression in this country, but because it is a good film.

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