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Black Dollar

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Black Dollar is an impressive attempt to create a Hollywood-style skop, skiet en donder action flick, featuring Zambian actors and on Zambian soil.  Currently showing on Showmax, Black Dollar is a fast-paced action movie that covers the underworld lurking on the streets of the Zambian capital, Lusaka.

The story is told through the eyes of Mateo Mwila, played by Kondwani Elliot Zulu, a petty thief and conman. 

 Mwila comes across a box of cash, dyed dark purple, and realises he’s found a stash of what is locally called “black dollar” — Zambian cash which has been dyed to make it seem worthless, but which can be cleaned with special chemicals. He realises he’s struck gold, if only he can find the right buyer. 

Meanwhile, a group of illegal miners, led by Fingers Chewe (played by Leo Dauty Simukoko), is looking for extra cash. Thrown into the mix is local politician, Peter Mudenda (played by Henry BJ Phiri), who needs money to run his re-election campaign and buy the silence of his mistress. All these characters collide to create a toxic mix of crime and violence. 

To its credit, Black Dollar is not gratuitously violent. The plot is clever and unpredictable, and the characters are rich and diverse. You won’t be able to take your eyes off of Zulu, who ties the story together with depth and emotion. The likes of Simokoko and his band of underworld followers are frightening enough. They’re cleverly outfoxed by the women in their mix, who seem like wallflowers at first, but turn out to be far more consequential. 

Black Dollar was unfortunately released in the UK and the US before local audiences had a chance to watch it, and it appears to have drummed up little online support in Zambia. But it is well-worth watching for its slick action sequences, intelligent writing, and excellent performances. — Sarah Evans

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