/ 25 April 2024

Local film releases to look out for

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Bradley Olivier (left) and Solomon Cupido in a scene from the film Frankie en Felipé, which tells the story of two brothers. Photo supplied

Frankie en Felipé

The Afrikaans romantic comedy Frankie en Felipé, which took four years to make, follows the story of two brothers whose lives take completely different paths when they are separated as children. 

When they are reunited, just before Frankie’s wedding, their past catches up with them as they negotiate the tangled mess that their lives have become. 

First-time producers and writers, the late Bradley Olivier (Frankie) and Solomon Cupido (Felipé) offer local audiences laughter, tears and lessons on coloured culture. 

The film also highlights how families can find ways to reconcile. 

The locations on the Cape Flats and swanky Stellenbosch reflect our country’s inequalities and the pressure to live up to luxury standards. 

It is an hour and a half of fun film to be enjoyed by the whole family, which plugged me to my in-laws’ kitchen table over tea and koeksisters. 

The story is deserving of a national screening. 

As boldly argued by Tessa Dooms and Lynsey Ebony Chutel in their book Coloured: How Classification Became Culture, published last year, understanding coloured identity requires people to be willing to look beyond the stereotypes and listen past the generalisations. 

As a country, we must be able to look into the eyes, souls, hearts and minds of coloured people with a desire to learn, the authors hold. How are we to break cultural barriers through our stories if market segmentation strategies cause further divisions? 

That is why I was unhappy when the delightful Frankie en Felipé was initially available only at selected cinemas when it came out in February. Fortunately, it is now available on DStv Box Office until 30 April. 

Directed by Marvin-Lee Beukes, with cinematography by Nick Burton Moore, the film has a great cast, including Bianca Flanders, Ilse Klink and Zane Meas. 

Smart Casuals

With its global premiere on Netflix on 12 April, Smart Casuals is another local romantic comedy gracing our screens. Shot entirely in Johannesburg, the film centres on two couples who travel equal and opposite paths in their search to find love.  

In his mid-thirties, photographer and player Taki (Anga Makubalo) has sworn off serious relationships. However, while enjoying the thrills of casual liaisons, he meets Tumi (Mandisa Constable), who unexpectedly rocks his world, leading to a change of heart. 

“Who hurt you?” is a question she asks Taki during their date, a simple question many black men may want to dismiss to avoid confronting their wounds for fear of appearing “soft”. 

The second couple, Mahlatsi (Angela Sithole) and Bheka (Terrence Ngwila), are in a steady, 12-year relationship. They have had to postpone getting married twice over the years.

We meet them as they make their third attempt at tying the knot. 

While Mahlatsi has always wanted to marry, a part of her feels there is a reason their wedding has never happened. But she fears it might be too late for her to leave and start over. 

Bheka is an obnoxious and arrogant man, drowning in his own toxicity. However, for maintenance of the “happy couple” social status, Mahlatsi cautiously tolerates his behaviour. 

This couple is probably the most realistic element of the film. 

Unresolved battles in relationships and marriages are the cause of many mental health issues, dysfunctional families and divorces. The film does well to attempt to show an authentic experience by finding a sense of transparency and vulnerability about us, as indicated by director Zwo Farisani during the film’s promotion. 

Written and produced by Zwo, with Ndamu Farisani of Farisani Creations, Smart Casuals marks Zwo’s feature film directorial debut.

The film is one of six micro-budget projects supported by Netflix and the National Film and Video Foundation through a joint film-fund. 

Smart Casuals explores relatable topics such as definitions of black love and toxic masculinity. 

The overall execution, which includes some cringe worthy acting and shaky camera angles was, however, off-putting.

White Lies

White Lies is a local crime-thriller miniseries created by Sean Steinberg and written by Darrel Bristow-Bovey. It was developed for M-Net by Quizzical Pictures and Fremantle. 

Settled in upmarket Cape Town suburb of Bishopscourt, investigative journalist Edie Hansen (Natalie Dormer) gets caught up in the ugly underbelly that lies beneath the picturesque city, dragging her back to a turbulent past.

The series took three months to shoot, with 12 hours of shooting a day in 40 locations. The obscure characters and deceptive script offer thrilling revelations in every episode towards solving the murder of a businessman. 

It’s a glance at the world of white privilege, with odd obsessions and lonely wives drinking wine in the middle of the day. 

Former Hawks detective Forty Bell (Brendan Daniels) is tasked with solving the case. Demoted after bungling a high-profile murder investigation that led him to relapse into past bad habits, including a gambling addiction, Forty is under pressure. 

Always dressed in a brown jacket, he strives to find a balance between being honourable and following orders. Because the murder occurred in a white suburb, there is a temptation to pin the crime on convenient suspects, including a black man. 

The series questions our country’s skewed view on justice when wealth and race are interlinked. 

It is refreshing to see Daniels cast in a different role from the tired typecast as a gangster, such as in Four Corners, Unseen and Spinners. In this series, he shows brilliant range as a seasoned actor. 

The relationship between Forty and Constable Peri Zondo (Athenkosi Mfamela) reminds me of Tony Kgoroge and Thomas Gumede in Cold Harbour. In this 2014 South African crime thriller, Kgoroge plays Sizwe, an ambitious police officer from Khayelitsha, Cape Town, while Gumede is the sidekick, Legama, who helps Sizwe solve an abalone smuggling case and the murder of a Triad (Chinese mafia) member. 

In White Lies, the two colleagues also show the traumas that come with the job. 

“Good men don’t shoot people and they are okay,” says Forty to Zondo in one scene. 

The dismissive, “I am fine,” from Zondo speaks to how men don’t like talking about their vulnerabilities, with addictions such as alcohol and gambling eventually becoming coping mechanisms. 

Their horrific experiences — with added pressure from victims’ family and their superiors — can influence some detectives to close cases early to avoid reliving the trauma. The series also explores the effect of childhood trauma as adults, sibling relations, the evolution of journalism and, of course, motives for murder. 

From the opulence of suburban bliss to tavern halls with thumping Brenda Fassie, White Lies reflects our country’s complexities through its dynamic characters and plot. 

The series is on every Thursday at 8pm on MNet (DStv Channel 101). You can also stream it on DStv Stream or watch on Dstv Catch-Up.