Movie review – A million ... cures for insomnia

2012-04-28 08:34

Film: A Million Colours (Nu Metro)
Director: Peter Bishai
Featuring: Wandile Molebatsi, Jason Hartman, Masello Motana
Rating: 5/10

Within minutes of watching A Million Colours, I knew the film was in for a thrashing from critics and discerning audiences alike.

It’s like one long metaphorical slow-motion run through the mielie fields – but without the satisfying hug and kiss to make it worth it.

Made by André Pieterse, the producer and co-writer of the 1975 smash hit e’Lollipop, it tells the true story of what happened to the two little boy actors from that film.

A great idea – especially as one was white, one black and their story begins just ahead of South Africa’s defining moment, the 1976 Soweto uprising. It’s easy to see how Pieterse and director Peter Bishai loosened investors’ purse strings.

What’s less clear is how they managed to make a complete balls-up of the film. The first problem lies with the script. It is cliched throughout, flimsy in between and so saccharine it’s likely to induce nausea in even the most sentimental of viewers.

The dewy-eyed camera work doesn’t help and then, alas, there is the casting. Wandile Molebatsi is mostly triumphant as Muntu, though he is victorious more often in the comical bits than he is when gravitas is required.

Jason Hartman – a previous winner of Idols – basically impersonates a block of wood as Norman, but the kind that is hard to carve into an animated sculpture.

He should perhaps take this as a life experience and get back to his musical roots.

Masello Motana is Sabela, the object of Muntu’s obsession and, we are told by the monosyllabic Norman voice-over, the cause of most of Muntu’s troubles.

Though very attractive, Sabela fails to become a character in any meaningful way and simpers her way from one scene to the next.

The writers don’t even bother to properly develop Muntu and Sabela’s relationship, except through the use of endless montages – the pair of them walking coyly home from school while small children play around their knees and the like.

Yet the makers would have us believe that this school yard romance burns so hot it scorches their destinies forever. Ag, please.

A Million Colours is another example of a missed opportunity to tell a good story well. The film that inspired it, e’Lollipop, earned its place in South African popular history with emotional honesty and by deftly striking the balance between the personal and political at a pivotal time in our past.

For all these reasons, it is eternally relevant – in the same way as A Million Colours is completely irrelevant.

Ever-increasing numbers of South African films are competing with Hollywood for our hard-earned R45 on a Friday night, but A Million Colours is not one of them.

Go and see something else and remind filmmakers that we’re much harder to please. 

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