Femmes fatales and femmes fails

2014-07-27 15:00

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The Durban International Film Festival was full of spectacular hits and dismal misses, especially when it came to female lead characters, writes Charl Blignaut.


Hated it

Opening the Durban International Film Festival was Zee Ntuli’s shoot-’em-up thriller Hard To Get.

Actress Thishiwe Ziqubu was excellent and sizzled as the hard-core criminal, Skiets.

The problem wasn’t her. It was her character.

You may think you’re watching a strong female lead with agency, but unpack the action and you see she was just playing out masculine fantasies in a plot driven by male jealousy.

It’s okay to be a strong woman as long as you talk husky, shoot like a man and spend the rest of the film (without a back story) fulfilling a man’s sexual fantasies while being one of the boys.

“Relax, it’s just a fun, action film,” you say. I say there’s no such thing as “just a film” in a climate where rape and misogyny are normalised.


Loved it

Love the One You Love actress Chi Mhende

My favourite female lead character of the local fiction features premiering at Africa’s largest film festival was to be found in the lead role of a fresh and unique debut from Cape Town director Jenna Cato Bass.

In Love the One You Love the character of Terri, played by Chi Mhende, was a real, whole, actual person. She has found love, but doesn’t know what to do with it.

She doesn’t want to be controlled, she doesn’t want to rely on a man for her happiness?–?but she wants to be held. She works as a sex phone operator, plans to see the world, dresses to please herself, not men.

She doesn’t pander to stereotypes about how a woman is supposed to live her life.

Here’s a black woman with presence in a white city and the role’s written by a woman. Viva!

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