Blood & Water

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Thabang Molaba and Ama Qamata in 'Blood & Water. (Lindsey Appolis/Netflix)
Thabang Molaba and Ama Qamata in 'Blood & Water. (Lindsey Appolis/Netflix)


Blood & Water




4/5 Stars


At Parkhurst College, a prestigious inner-city school for Cape Town's elite scholars and academic overachievers, we'll follow the exploits of the intelligent, proactive and impulsive 16- year-old Puleng Khumalo, as she engineers her transfer to the school to investigate the 17-year- old cold case of her abducted-at-birth older sister she's never met. 


When we first meet 16-year-old Puleng (Ama Qamata), she is musing in her bedroom when she is called by her mother (Gail Mabalane) to join the birthday celebrations with the rest of the family. Despite it being a happy occasion, there is a sombre mood, made even more awkward by Puleng's father being late.

Puleng appears on edge and not how you would expect someone to behave at a party. Then the reason for the dark energy in the room becomes apparent - the party is to celebrate the birthday of Puleng's older sister, Phume - a sister who she has never met because she was abducted at birth 17 years ago.

Puleng is growing weary of singing Happy Birthday and blowing out candles on her sister's birthday every year, and an outburst leads her to escape to a house party in Llandudno.

At the party she meets Parkhurst College's "it girl" Fikile "Fiks" Bhele (Khosi Ngema), who coincidentally is celebrating her 17th birthday. This coincidence leads Puleng on an obsessive path to try and solve the mystery of her sister's abduction – an obsession that soon turns dangerous with disastrous consequences for the people close to her.

When I first read the synopsis for Blood & Water, it immediately reminded me of the kidnapping of Zephany Nurse, who was abducted from Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town when she was two days old in 1997. 

The Nurses' younger daughter, Cassidy, started at a new school where Zephany, then aged seventeen, coincidentally was also enrolled. Friends commented on the uncanny resemblance between the two girls, and they formed an almost immediate friendship. 

After being contacted by Zephany's father, the police began an investigation, and DNA testing confirmed the family's suspicions. 

Despite the apparent similarities, I approached Blood & Water with an open mind. However, more similarities kept racking up, from their age, to friends commenting on their features, annual birthday celebrations, a mother who couldn't conceive, a falsely registered birth certificate, and Zephany's maternal grandmother's words: "Blood is thicker than water."

While Puleng's kidnapping investigation is the main plot, several subplots are running concurrently, which include adultery, family secrets, and shady business dealings.

The subplots are just as riveting as the main plot and will draw you back into the main storyline if you feel yourself slipping away.

The introduction to the main characters move very fast, and more consideration could have been put in introducing all the characters. There were moments that I had to pause, before moving forward, but the series finds its rhythm halfway through.

The young cast rose to the occasion and delivered stellar performances. Ama Qamata, anchored the series with such ease and poise, and she has gained a fan in me - I'm confident that after the show airs, she would have garnered thousands more! 

The cast is wonderfully diverse, and smaller roles were filled by South African heavy-weights including Sandi Schultz and Sello Maake Ka-Ncube, who commanded their scenes, even with the limited screen time.

But the visual impact and cinematography far outweighed my concerns about the story.

Each element in the frame had a role to play and was executed effortlessly. The lighting, which is sometimes overlooked and perhaps most under-appreciated, set the tone for each scene. It was delicate when it needed to be and bold when the scene asked for it. 

A crucial element in Blood & Water was the visual and special effects. The eye-catching on-screen WhatsApp messages, or Instagram alert pop-up, could so easily have been overdone, but instead was seamlessly integrated.

It was also fun to look out for some familiar locations including the Sea Point Promenade, Llandudno, UCT, and Camps Bay.

The local soundtrack is fire and adds a signature South Africa flair to what would otherwise present itself as a mash-up between Riverdale and Veronica Mars.

I've never seen a high school in South Africa that resembled the halls of Parkhurst College, but I assume that the way the school is portrayed will lend itself to an international audience.

And I'm confident that the international audience will fall in love with our city, our actors, and our music after watching Blood & Water.

I'm no longer in high school, and I haven't been for some time, so I can't relate to the 2020 high school experience, but it was fun to watch, and the six episodes are the perfect bite-size for a weekend binge.

Season two is yet to be confirmed, but interwoven storylines set Blood & Water up for an even more dramatic second season.



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