Out of the blues, a few days ago, I got an invite to the premier of the new South African movie, Felix! Not expecting much, I attended last nights premier in the company of my daughter Nadia. I must say the pre-publicity didn’t attract my attention! I thought, “Ho hum, another old boring story of a suffering poor township boy, bullied by a bunch of over privileged rich kids”. I’ve seen that before! What a surprise?
Like a typical actor, I do not usually gush over South African movies that I have no part in. Yes I know, it is infantile and stupid, but that is just how our silly industry works. This little gem is however totally different! Felix is one of the most delightful film experiences I have had in years. Shirley Johnson wrote a story with such heart and hope! No wonder Me Johnson is nowadays one of our most respected script writers and story tellers. The humour is subtle, the dialogue easy on the tough, the characters fully rounded and the story and absolute delight. I sat in that theatre, picking away tears, as the story of Felix’s love for music, eventually heals his mother, his family and his community! Felix is a township boy with an uncanny musical talent, which he inherited from his late father. His mother does not wish to encourage or support his musical ability, because she blames music for his father’s untimely demise.
Felix gets a scholarship to a fancy private school on the strength of his mothers employers intervention. Yes there are the inevitable bully and his gang, and the sweet noble big guy and the super-nerd helping him, but that is a very small part of the story. It does help us to understand Felix’s strength and unbending resolve. The real story is Felix’s search for his father’s legacy, the restoration of his father’s memory, and his unbelievable devotion to music!
In the title role is a young performer Hlayani Junior Mabasa! What an incredible young talent. What he might lack in technique, he makes up for in complete charm. He dragged me into the heart and soul of Felix like a seasoned professional, and put me on the emotional rollercoaster of the life of his character! An outstanding performance by a youngster with a smile that will disarm even the hardest of hearts!
Linda Sokhulu, as the mother was truly a revelation! Her finely nuanced performance, and her control of her craft, gave her character a strength and empathy that superseded ones critical feelings of her misunderstanding of her sons situation! I felt a deep sadness in this woman thanks to the beautiful performance by a superb actress.
Andre Jacobs, as the music teacher, deserves a special mention. Once again I was convinced that this is one of the most underrated talents in this country! The man should be right up there with the acting deities! If any young actor ever thinks a small part is a waste of time, go and see Nicholas Ellenbogen as the aging benefactor! He turned a, most probably a two call part, into something that nearly stole the entire show!
The tomfoolery of Thapelo Mofokeng and Royston Stoffels, as the two “naughty” musical mentors, are enchanting! I couldn’t help myself but to be completely taken by them. Two charming mischievous “grandfathers” anyone could hope for!
And then there is the music of Murray Anderson. Any jazz lover will inevitably love the music, but you do not need to be a jazz lover to enjoy it! It will make your feet itch to get up and move, and most of all, will pull at the cord of your heart strings! Remember, this is a movie about music and a kid!
Roberta Durrant’s directing is the epitome of a light unobtrusive touch. She allows her actors to explore their characters completely, and takes us, the audience, on a voyeuristic ride into the innermost private moments of the people in the story! The performances she hoaxed from her young, inexperienced and untrained lead and support cast is superb! The sensitivity and respect with which the story is told underwrites Durrant’s reputation as master craftsman!
So, what more can I say? Go and watch this utterly delightful film once it is released in theatres countrywide from the 13th of September! All I can say is, I’m absolutely gutted that I’m not part of this beautiful project. Yes, I’m sick with envy!
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