What it's about:
Twenty years ago, the young “Five Fingers” fought for the rural town of Marseilles, against brutal police oppression. Now, after fleeing in disgrace, freedom-fighter-turned-outlaw Tau returns to Marseilles, seeking a peaceful pastoral life. When he finds the town under a new threat, he reluctantly fights to free it. Can he free himself from his past? Will the Five Fingers stand again?
What we thought:
Five Fingers for Marseilles, South Africa’s first Western film, tells the story of the community of Railway, part of a small town called Marseilles. Oppressed by the apartheid government, the residents of Railway often find themselves victim to corrupt officials who terrorise the community. And while many are afraid to stand up to those in power, there are five youngsters (the ‘Five Fingers’) who refuse to go down without a fight.
The Five Fingers’ struggle for freedom takes a turn for the worse when group member Tau, a hot-head who’s not opposed to bending the rules (played by Vuyo Dabula), kills two police officers, forcing him to flee his hometown in search of safety.
Flash-forward 20 years, now a hardened criminal, Tau is released from prison and makes the decision to go back to Railway. And although the battle against apartheid has been won, the fight for freedom is still underway as the residence find themselves under a new threat.
I struggled to imagine what a South African Western would look like – in my mind picturing clichés like tumbleweeds, cowboy boots, and a sheriff who makes it known that he is in charge around these parts. Thankfully, I found none of that.
The creators of this film did a fantastic job taking what many expect a Western to be, and flipping it on its head. While there were still many elements of the classic Western film, Five Fingers For Marseilles is so uniquely South African that midway through I stopped looking for the things that made it a Western, and started looking out for the things that made it good film.
That being said, if breathtaking cinematography is what you’re after, then this movie is definitely for you. Filmed in the Eastern Cape, it boasts beautiful visuals that are enough to keep the eyes of someone with a short attention span like myself entertained.
In fact, had it not been for the amazing imagery, I may have found myself staring at my watch a few times as the slow pace of the film caused my mind to wander every now again.
Colourful characters like Sepoko, the lead antagonist (played by Hamilton Dlamini) also did a good job of drawing me back in before I was too far gone. Like a villain straight out of a Disney film, Dlamini kept the audience thoroughly entertained, providing just as many gasps as he did laughs. Another stellar performance is that of Warren Masemola who plays ‘Thuto’ – the right-hand man to Sepoko, and probably the only character who really had that ‘cowboy’ feel.
Filled with drama, plot twists, and of course a few shootouts, Five Fingers For Marseilles is a great local film that should be praised for more than just being a western.