Each nation in the world has their own landscape of cinema, their own national cinema. Cinema which tells the stories of the very people living in that country. Stories which allow citizens to identify with any or all aspects of the film. The USA has Hollywood, India has Bollywood, Nigeria has Nollywood and interestingly enough South Africa has Joziwood ( awful term which we best forget about). Though what makes South African cinema stick out like a sore thumb compared to all other national cinemas is the fact that not one story-line, language, culture, setting, etc can tell the story of all South Africans. We live in such a rich and diverse country with 11 official languages, one film cannot possibly tell the story of each and every single one of us.
Due to our turbulent and violent past, South African cinema found itself stuck to a one-dimensional story line and rightfully so. The horrors of Apartheid created stories from all sides and all walks of life. If it wasn’t stories during Apartheid, it was Post Apartheid stories, if it wasn’t a story about one of the Apartheid activists it was a story about living under the NP government. Stories have the power to heal, to unify and to forgive. It was of the utmost necessity that South African cinema focused so ardently on those terrible times.
As the years went by and the born-free’s slowly became adults, South African cinema started coming into its own. No longer is this generation focused on the issue of the past but rather of issues that were caused by the past and inherently effect the future. Whether you were directly involved in the struggle or not at all, the new wave of South African cinema focuses on personal stories. Just because some people don’t have a struggle does not mean they don’t have a story. It was the acceptance of all kinds of struggles that created this exciting turn in South African Cinema.
Take a look at Big Bad Wolf’s top 5 South African films and why.
Skoonheid / Beauty (2011)
I remember the first time I ever watched Skoonheid, my skin crawled with pure discomfort from the opening lines to the end credits. As discussed above, everyone has their own struggles and this film shows how these struggles can ruin a persons life. A closeted gay husband/ Father living in a conservative, middle-class suburb in Bloemfontein becomes the image of desperation when his obsession for a friends handsome son ends in a violent incident. To be able to witness the inner workings of a closet gay living in conservative-land and his inner turmoil makes one realise that every person you come across has their own story and their own intentions. Brilliant script, brilliant acting and superbly filmed.
Necktie Youth (2014)
Its hard to discuss the new wave of films in South Africa without talking about Necktie Youth. Directed by a ‘born-free’, Sibs Shongwe La Mer was able to give people an insight into the lives of the born free generations. Instead of sugar-coating their lives he give the audience a stark and realistic look into the going ons within this generation. It may be rather shocking for the older generation who fought so hard for freedom to see their children waisting away. Drugs, sex and rock n’ roll is the main focus of these young adults whose actions speak louder than words. It shows what ‘The Rainbow Nation‘ hope of 1994 became in 2015. Catch yours truly as Rafi ( I promise no Biased opinions were involved in the writing of this article 😉 )
The next two films could not be more different yet they are both directed by the Great Akin Omotoso. Firstly lets discuss:
Jesus and The Giant (2008)
Directed by Akin Omotoso in 2008, Jesus and the Giant is an experimental short film thats packs a lot of punch within the short amount of time. The first time I ever watched it I was auditioning to be accepted into the Wits University’s school of the arts. The second time I watched it was when we were blessed with having Akin Omotoso lecture us in our final year of screen-writing ( he did not make us watch it, I just wanted to remember why I held him in such high regard). Set in modern day Johannesburg the film offers a horrific insight into domestic violence. Shot entirely on a digital stills camera the film, bar the last shot, is shot in a sort of ‘stop start‘ animation way. The cinematography fed into the theme of the film in a viscerally intense way. Every South African women should watch this and grow from Jesus’s power.
Tell Me Sweet Something ( 2015)
Probably the most popular film on this list, Tell me Sweet something is a sort of homage to Johannesburg. A love story set in this grungy metropolis we call home. It may not be the most conventional setting for a romance and that is exactly why I loved it. It follows the story of Moratiwa, an aspiring writer who owns a bookshop in the Big Bad City. Just like her bookstore, Moratiwa’s love life isn’t going the way she had hoped, until the most unlikely of guys comes a long- Nat a male model ( played by the yummy Maps Maponyane). Its a simple love story that is placed in my home-town so I can’t not love it. Quirky, sweet and true to the South African dating scene, Tell Me Sweet Something offers audience identification in every which way possible.