REVIEW | Kings of Joburg

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Shona Ferguson in Kings of Joburg.
Shona Ferguson in Kings of Joburg.
Screengrab: YouTube/Netflix

Cast: Shona Ferguson, Zolisa Xaluva, Cindy Mahlangu, Thembi Seete, Tsholofelo Matshaba, Tokollo Sebothoma, Abdul Khoza, SK Khoza, Buhle Samuels, Lunathi Mamphofu. 

Directors/Creators: Shona Ferguson, Llewellyn Cordier and Connie Ferguson

Age restriction: 16LV

Our rating: 3.5 out of 5

Where to watch: Netflix

What it’s about

Kings of Joburg is Netflix's recent African series production. It's a thrilling test of loyalties under the gritty, concentrated populous of the crime-ridden streets of the city of Johannesburg. The action-drama series with a layer of dark fantasy and a sinister aspect of the African occult. 

The story delves into legacy building, fragmented family structures, treacherous brotherhoods and the effects of crime and African masculinities on families and society at large. Loyalties will be tested, with long held secrets threatening to shatter the fragile façade. 

Read more | Kings of Johannesburg's Tokollo on the lessons he's learnt in the industry

What we thought

After what felt like a long wait, Kings of Joburg finally premiered on Netflix on the 4th of December. I binge watched this 6-part series, with episodes spanning over 50 minutes, in one night.

It has an intriguing storyline, even though it's one we know all too well - the story of a notorious powerful family in the city of gold. But what made it particularly special? 

Kings of Joburg does an exceptional job at exploring the idea of being your brothers keeper and just how far some people are willing to go to either attain or keep power. The mystical and thriller side of the of the family's life is especially intriguing as it's a side that's a common one discussed through folklore or ancient teachings in our families. It's also been debated extensively on social media lately, which made it even more interesting to see it played out on the big screen. It affirmed the idea that behind every powerful family lies a deep and dark secret, for the Masire's however its not a snake but a mermaid. 

The series also brought onto screen young faces such as Cindy Mahlangu and TK Sebothoma, who shined in their performance amongst industry heavyweights. Cindy particularly portrays the character of Phumzi so well, so much so that you would not believe that it was all a façade. With her portrayal of Zaza, Lunathi Mamphofu is certainly a TV villain in the making. 

The supporting actresses gave stellar performances but the series missed an opportunity to include darker skinned supporting actresses in an industry that's always in the spotlight for favouring the lighter skinned stars. This point does not take away from the fact that the cast delivered a performance worthy of an international stage such as Netflix, but it's an important one to ask when the case of representation and colourism are constant topics of discussion.

Secondly, one other critique would be the lack of new faces on the series as lead characters or supporting actors. However, the inclusion of American actors was a good touch for a series presented on an international stage where more such collaborations are becoming more common. 

With a star-studded cast and stellar production, it's a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars and with so many of what seemed to be lead cast members dying, it's going to be interesting to see what thrilling storyline they bring us in season 2. If you are a fan of crime thrillers with a twist of the supernatural, this is definitely for you! 

See a trailer for the series below:

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