DIFF review – The new independent cinema

2014-07-27 15:00

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Despite receiving absolutely no state or independent funding, a small group of cast and crew have created something special with local drama The Two of Us, writes Charl Blignaut

Thina Sobabili: The Two of Us

Directed by Ernest Nkosi

Starring: Busisiwe Mtshali, Emmanuel Nkosinathi Gweva


There were tears stinging my eyes as the end credits rolled on Ernest Nkosi’s Thina Sobabili: The Two of Us after its world premiere played to a small group of mainly cast and crew at the Durban International Film Festival last weekend.

Shot on a shoestring budget in seven days by a small and insanely committed group of mostly former Afda students, the credits were unlike most that you see in Durban.

There were no logos of state funding bodies. There were no established producers.

The team had tried for four years to attract funding and in the end, they sold T-shirts, organised a campus comedy tour and pitched in their savings to raise the budget.

They won’t be offering it to local distributors. Instead, they will be taking it to the people themselves – and having a very necessary chat with audiences afterwards.

The film is far from perfect. It’s too drawn-out, smacks of TV drama scenes and has some uneven performances.

But it also hits the viewer in the gut, brilliantly capturing the grit of life in Alexandra township, tackling the reality of sugar daddies and diving headfirst into an exploration of the sexual abuse of babies, schoolgirls and within a marriage.

It doesn’t preach, it just shows it as it is.

It also marks an impressive big screen debut for young actress Busisiwe Mtshali.

She plays Zanele, who is raised by her strict, criminal brother Thulas. She believes she is an orphan. In truth, her mother left the children to protect them from her abusive spouse.

With a terrible twist at its centre, the film offers some relentless scenes of extreme discomfort for viewers – but reality will do that.

Co-written by Nkosi and Mosibudi Pheeha, Thina Sobabili is a powerful and educative exploration of being trapped in the township and dreaming of freedom.

It will resonate with its target audience and offer a powerful set of messages to take home. It also bears considerable charm, capturing the banter of the street, the thrill of first love and the complexity of sibling relationships.

The ironies are rife. Here is the perfect project for government to fund. But it seems more intent on supporting vacuous and often violent crime thrillers.

This film, then, seems to be how the new cinema will emerge in South Africa.


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