Sew the Winter to My Skin

Ezra Mabengeza in Sew the Winter to My Skin. (Photo: Indigenous Film Distribution)
Ezra Mabengeza in Sew the Winter to My Skin. (Photo: Indigenous Film Distribution)


Set in the 1920s to the 1950s, a time where Afrikaner nationalism became rife and Apartheid was being written into law, Sew the Winter to my Skin is a South African Western-style film that tells the story of a rebellious man whose Robin Hood type role sees him stealing from the rich (livestock and supplies) in order to give to the poor.

However, a farmer and embittered World War II veteran who becomes increasingly obsessed with the capture of the man who keeps stealing his livestock, is not about to make life easy for him.


Ezra Mabengeza plays the role of outlaw John Kepe very well in this South African western-style epic. This local film tells you the story of Kope’s escapades as a well-meaning thief and how this maddens the Afrikaner nationalist farmer he steals from who leads an epic manhunt to track him down and tries to bring him to justice.

If you’re a drama fanatic, or you love local films, or you love stories where the good guy isn’t necessarily good, then this one is for you.

The beauty of this film is that it doesn’t rely on dialogue to tell the story, instead it uses the actors to their full potential and has you rapt with attention as you realise that this story is being told through movements, expressions and actions instead of being dialogue heavy. Dialogue is only really heard when the characters are expressing anger and, even though the story is about Kope, the white characters seem to have a monopoly on the anger in this film and therefore the dialogue. This is an interesting allegory to how people of colour and black people especially felt silenced by their white counterparts.

Teeming to the brim with local talent, you’ll see the faces of quite a few local stars including Zolisa Xaluva (Generations), Brenda Ngxoli (Home Affairs) and Robert Whitehead (Isidingo) and see them in roles that are certainly different to what they’re known for. Carlo Radebe for instance who we usually see in roles as the tough gangster or something more dramatic, brought a comedic element to the film with a character called “The Rider.”

The film was selected as SA’s official submission in consideration for a nomination at the 91st Academy Awards and unfortunately didn’t make the cut, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch this film as if there were a chance that Mzansi would get an Oscar.

My only concern with this film was that sometimes the timelines are easy to mess up. It switches between us seeing Kope in prison to telling the story of how he got there so quickly that sometimes it takes a minute to realise that there’s a time shift.

A beautifully shot film that is well-directed and features a stellar cast. I definitely recommend it if you’re in the mood for something that will give you a bit more to chew on or make you want to feel like you’ve really lived the story instead of just sitting in a cinema staring at a screen.