Movie review – Four Corners: Bang,?bang, we’re all dead

2014-03-30 14:01

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Four Corners is a powerful South African story about redemption set in the Cape Flats. You won’t be able to look away, writes Gayle Edmunds

Four Corners (Indigenous)

Director: Ian Gabriel

Featuring: Brendon Daniels, Lindiwe Matshikiza, Jezriel Skei and Irshaad Ally

Dead-eyed men with guns. This is an all-too-prominent feature of our society that we try to block out with the help of security companies, high walls and a dollop of denial.

But what if you couldn’t block it out? Four Corners lifts the flap on a way of life that is a numbers game.

Filmed on location in the Cape Flats, home to about 2?million Capetonians, director Ian Gabriel has the inside knowledge he and his crew gained from immersing themselves in the community to sidestep one of the recurring problems of South African scripts – cardboard characters.

He also dodges the bullet of an underdone plot. The only criticism is that he packs so much in that he could have made a trilogy. It is clear he has such rich narratives and depth of knowledge to draw on.

Gabriel says in his director’s notes: “I wanted to look at how difficult it might be for a father, a gangster, to turn the clock back and set things right.

I planned to set the film in the particular world of the Cape Flats, where the chances are very high that a boy will grow up in a single-parent or no-parent, fatherless home. I hoped to portray a gangster film in a largely unknown world. And reveal it in a fresh way.”

With a cast led by Brendon Daniels as Farakhan – a General from the 28s gang – this story of divergent lives forged from the same roots deserves to woo local audiences.

The film opens with Farakhan about to finish his time at Pollsmoor Prison. He has to kill to get out, just like he killed to get in. What follows is the premeditated murder of a rival gang boss under the noses of the inmates and the prison guards, yet paradoxically unseen.

This brutal scene sets the tone for Gabriel’s tale, which is the battle for redemption and the chance to start over with the threat of the past hovering.

Farakhan returns to his father’s Cape Flats home no longer a numbers gangster to rebuild his life, but a man without a number is a threat to Gasant (Irshaad Ally), leader of the 26 gang. While Farakhan unwittingly charts a collision course with Gasant, Richardo (Jezriel Skei)?–?a 13-year-old chess prodigy?–?walks the line between being sucked into the gangs and staying free of them.

Ricardo’s guardian angel is another local, police captain Tito Hanekom (Abduragman Adams), who is also trying to catch a serial killer. The final player in the field is Lindiwe Matshikiza as Leila Domingo, a doctor based in London who returns to her Cape Flats roots for her dad’s funeral. She was Farakhan’s sweetheart before he went to prison.

There are moments of tenderness, of beauty and of triumph, but make no mistake, Four Corners is tough viewing. What makes it so enticing, if brutal – apart from the well-developed story and the good ensemble – is that it depicts a way of life that people make judgements about, but in reality know very little about.

It is also a terrible indictment of patriarchy. As a woman, I seldom bother to worry about how men suffer under patriarchy (it’s a bit like worrying about how awful life was for white people under apartheid), but this film made me realise why we all really need to worry?–?a lot more.

Four Corners was our official selection for this year’s Oscars and is must-see viewing, though it may be a hard sell on Friday night at the movies. It is a South African story told with great attention to detail that offers hope for the future of our so often uneven film industry.

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