‘Nommer 37 is not a movie about gangsters but rather about people’

Cape Town – After making its world debut at the South by South West festival, crime thriller Nommer 37 opens in local cinemas on Friday, 1 June.

The film written, directed and produced by Nosipho Dumisa is an homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window.

It originally started out as a short film and went on to win Best Film Text at the 2014 Silwerskerm Festival.

The film centres on Randal (Irshaad Ally) a paraplegic and his girlfriend Pam (Monique Rockman) who play a risky game of cat and mouse when they blackmail a powerful criminal whilst evading a sadistic loan shark.

Speaking to Channel24 at the premiere of the film Nosipho says the biggest challenge of turning the short into a feature was the temptation to try and push everything in. 

“I had to learn restraint. I had to say to myself this is what the story is. How do I honour that but how do I give the audience who have seen the short something new? Just learning that balance was difficult.”

For Irshaad, who also starred in the short, the feature film was an opportunity for him to add more layers to Randal’s character.

“I initially auditioned for the role of the villain in the short film. A few days later they told me I got the lead. For the feature I was able to sit back, read, think and become the character. It allowed me to add more layers to the character," says Irshaad.


For Monique Rockman, who plays Pam, Randal’s girlfriend this is her first lead role. 

What resonated most with her about the character was her vulnerability and that she was a real person and not a stereotype. 

“You know the stereotypes, pregnant, unmarried, drug addict, prostitute. She was a real person like a lot of us coloured people are and they gave me the opportunity to show that we are a diverse group of people”, says Monique.

For Monique the most challenging parts of the film were some of the violent scenes where Pam has to defend herself. 

“It was horrible to put myself in the shoes of someone who is being threatened with death and that someone might rape you.”

She continues: “And also having to deal with the loss of loved ones and being stuck in a situation that you just can’t get out. Those scenes were very challenging for me.”


With a title like Nommer 37 and set in a fictional Cape Flats area it’s hard not to think that this film explores gang life.

Nosipho explains: “If people watch the film they will realise that this is not a film about gangsters at all. For me it was the fact that there are all these different characters that live in one place and I had to honour each of them. If there is a gangster I want to treat him that way but if there is a person just living their lives, for example a pastor or a woman, across the way how do we honour that and tell the story authentically.”

Irshaad says he represents Cape Town the way it should be presented. 

“I know I am playing a thief again but we have to be honest there is a lot of that kind of thing happening in communities. People are addicted to tik and live in poverty. This narrative has to be told to bring light to the issue so that we can reflect on who we are and what we are about.”

He continues: “There is an issue with the coloured narrative that we are only gangsters, I say I will play a gangster until somebody goes and really does something about the gangstersim and the drug problem in Cape Town."

And what do they hope people will take away from the film?

Nosipho hopes that people watch it and see that there are ways to get out of their circumstances but that crime doesn't pay. 

Irshaad says that it is an adventurous film and that it shows that "we can make films and do them very well."


The film has secured international distribution in the US where it will be released in New York and Los Angeles later this year.

“It’s incredible especially for a non-English film to get cinematic release. It’s really saying that as South Africans we have stories to tell that people care about and that our stories are finally reaching the rest of the world,” says Nosipho.


(Photos: Lindsey Appolis)