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Sihle Xaba and Warren Masemola in Vaya. (Times Media Films)
Sihle Xaba and Warren Masemola in Vaya. (Times Media Films)




4/5 Stars


Three people board the train bound for Johannesburg. Strangers, each with their own goals, simple tasks to complete, and in search of family to help them. But, when they are betrayed by the very people whose protection they sought, they find themselves trapped in the city—invisible and alone. Three separate plots are intertwined in a gripping, deeply moving and often funny narrative about struggling for survival and dignity in the city.

What we thought:

Akin Omotoso’s Vaya has been on the festival circuit since late 2016. The film has racked up a number of international awards and earlier this year it was the opening film at the prestigious African Film Festival in New York. Critics have high praise for Omotoso’s newest work and it is well-deserving. The film took eight years to make and is based on the true stories of the writers.

Vaya follows three strangers travelling together on a train from the rural area to the City of Gold. 

Each of them are going there for different reasons: Zanele (Zimkhitha Nyoka) is accompanying a young girl (Azwile Chamane-Madiba) to be reunited with her mother, Nkulu (Sibusiso Msimang) has to go and fetch his father’s body  for burial and Nhlanhla (Sihle Xaba) is going to meet his cousin Xolani (Warren Masemola) who has promised him a job in the city.

When they get to Johannesburg they soon realise that the city is not for the faint-hearted. Their stories interweave with intricate twists and the plot is a slow simmer.  While it does drag at times there is enough intrigue to keep you invested until the film reaches its climax.  The cinematography is beautiful with aerial shots of Joburg which is juxtaposed by gritty close ups of the city centre, Hillbrow and Soweto.

Nyoka, Msimang and Xaba each give good performances. Their portrayal of naive country folk coming to the big city is poignant.

The film explores a number of themes like: gangsterism, human trafficking, alcohol abuse, illegal abortions to name a few. It also shines a spotlight on the big divide between the rich and the poor.  

In one of the scenes in the film Xolani takes Nhlanhla to a landfill where people are digging around in the rubbish for some kind of treasure to sell. The shot is beautiful and symbolic for the many people who moved to the city chasing a dream that they lost along the way. 

Vaya is a thought provoking film that will leave you shooketh and stay with you long after the credits have rolled. It is definitely one of the must see local films of the year.


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