What it's about:
It is the height of apartheid, and Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu is a 19-year-old hawker from the streets of Mamelodi. After a brutal beating at the hands of the police, he goes into exile to join the liberation movement.
After undergoing military training in Angola, he is joined by friend and comrade Mondy who, in a heated incident, loses control and ends up shooting two innocent people in downtown Johannesburg.
While Mondy is severely beaten and tortured, Kalushi faces a daunting trial in which the State seeks the highest punishment—death by hanging.
What we thought:
First and foremost I want to say that this biographical film tells an important story that I think a lot of people need to be reminded of at this point in our history. Therefore I think everyone should go see it.
My favourite moments involved Wandile Molebatsi, who played Phineus; Pearl Thusi, who played Solomon’s love interest Brenda; and Gcina Mhlophe, who plays Solomon’s mother Martha. And all those moments are towards the end of the film so I won’t give away any ‘spoilers’ (for those who don’t know the history.) I also enjoyed some of the departures from a more traditional style of filmmaking, such as the non-linear plot.
The cinematography was lovely and overall the film was very well shot. There were some beautiful frames and themes that ran throughout the film. The set design and costumes were, for the most part, also really good at putting you in the era of the late 1970s.
With all that being said, I feel as though there were some technical elements that let the film down at its most important moments. Like for instance in the moment when Solomon decides to fight the Apartheid regime after the 16 June massacre, the editing and special effects make it feel almost comical. I think it would have hit the audience harder if it had just been focused on the actor and his character’s emotions.
There were moments like that throughout the film where I felt that real opportunities for character development where lost. Therefore Solomon and Mondy – who are two of the main leads in the films – were left without a real character arc.
Some of the editing also felt a bit off to me. Some shots lasted longer than they should have, whereas others were almost too short – a character would be speaking and suddenly then you’d be looking at someone else.
I am aware that as someone who has studied history, I was familiar with a lot more of the context than those who have not and so I wish that more was explained to viewers in terms of context and background information.
I think that this award winning local film is really worth your money at the cinema. It might not be perfect but it gets a lot right. I especially want to add that young people should go watch this movie so that our nation’s troubled past can be retold to them in a vibrant way.