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Based on the continued success of local content on its platform, Showmax has been ramping up its catalogue with a steady stream of South African classics recently, from Oscar entries Noem My Skollie and Thina Sobabili to two-time International Emmy nominee Is’Thunzi to Vaya, which was recently released in the USA by Ava DuVernay’s Array.
Here are eight highlights to stream.
1. Noem My Skollie | Call Me Thief by Daryne Joshua
Premise: Based on the life story of the scriptwriter, John W Fredericks, Noem My Skollie is about Abraham, who survives jail by telling stories – becoming “the prison cinema”.
Why you should watch: 1. The story behind the film is just as moving as the film itself: John quit his job as a security guard at age 50 to focus on telling stories, started working on the screenplay in 2000, completed his first draft in 2002, and was 70 when he heard that his film had become South Africa’s Oscar entry. Choosing not to watch the film and be part of John’s happy ending puts you in the same class as the Grinch who stole Christmas. 2. It’s the film debut of director Daryne Joshua, who’s been getting more rave reviews this year for Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies story.
Accolades: Noem My Skollie was South Africa’s Foreign Film Oscar entry for 2017. It also won five South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs), including Best Actor (Dann Jaques Mouton) and Best Supporting Actor (Abduraghmaan Adams).
2. Thina Sobabili | The Two Of Us by Ernest Nkosi
Premise: In Alexandra township, Thulas will do anything to protect his sister, Zanele, after witnessing her abuse as a child. When Zanele falls for the charms of an older man, Thulas is determined to protect his sister by putting an end to the relationship.
Why you should watch: 1. Shot over just seven days, this is a reminder of how powerful raw, low-budget filmmaking can be. 2. The excellent lead performances from Emmanuel Nkosinathi Gweva (Vaya) as Thulas, Busi Mtshali (Lockdown) as Zanele, and Richard Lukunku (Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word) as Skhalo. 3. Mpho Nthangeni’s haunting, SAFTA-winning score, featuring vocals from Bongeziwe Mabandla.
Accolades: Thina Sobabili was South Africa’s Foreign Film Oscar entry for 2016, after winning Audience Awards at both the Pan African Film Festival and the Jozi Film Festival.
3. Is’Thunzi S1 by Rapid Blue
Premise: Mzansi Magic’s first teen drama follows Winnie, Londi, Noxolo and Thishiwe as they pursue their dreams and form a bond that will not only push them over the edge, but also grow them in ways they never could have imagined.
Why you should watch: As Winnie, Thuso Mbedu has been nominated for the International Emmy Award for Best Actress two years in a row. This year, she’s competing against the likes of two-time Oscar nominee Emily Watson – and gets our vote.
Accolades: In addition to two International Emmy nominees, Thuso also won best actress at the SAFTAs this year.
4. Vaya by Akin Omotoso
Premise: Based on real accounts, Vaya is the story of three strangers who board a train for Johannesburg, where they will be let down by the very people they expected to protect them.
Why you should watch: Ava DuVernay, the first black female director to be nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe, acquired the international rights for this New York Times Critics Pick via her distribution company Array. Ahead of its world premiere at Toronto, the festival’s artistic director Cameron Bailey praised Vaya for its “brilliant performances and Kabelo Thathe’s sizzling camerawork.” Similarly, The Los Angeles Times praised “the magnetic, star-in-the-making” Zimkhitha Nyoka, “Omotoso’s fleet pacing and Kabelo Thathe’s marvelously textured cinematography.”
Accolades: Five 2017 African Movie Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Screenplay. Best South African Film, Durban International Film Festival, 2017.
5. Vuil Wasgoed | Dirty Laundry by Morné du Toit (available until 31 December 2018)
Premise: Wim and Kevin are two slackers who make money washing rich people’s clothes, which they party in at night. Then they discover a severed finger in one pocket and land in serious hot water…
Why you should watch: 1. It’s full of twists and laughs, like watching an early Guy Ritchie movie, like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch, in Afrikaans. 2. Vuil Wasgoed was the second-most popular South African film at the cinema last year. 3. It’s based on a Silwerskerm-winning short film.
Accolades: Winner of five awards at Silwerskerm 2017, including Best Director (Morné du Toit) and Best Actor (Bennie Fourie).
6. Vaselinetjie by Corne van Rooyen (available until 31 December 2018)
Premise: Called Vaselinetjie for her white skin, Helena was raised by her loving brown grandparents in a remote rural village. Yet when welfare learns she’s not their biological family, she is sent away to an orphanage in Johannesburg.
Why you should watch: 1. Vaselinetjie was the third-most popular South African film at the cinema last year. 2. It’s based on Anoeschka von Meck’s multi-award-winning novel.
Accolades: Best Film, Silwerskerm, 2017.
7. Alison by Uga Carlini
Premise: Raped. Disemboweled. Nearly decapitated. Dumped on the outskirts of a nature reserve, dead – or so they thought. She needed a hero that night, so that’s what she became. This is Alison’s tale.
Why you should watch: Variety called Alison, “an uplifting portrait of her against-all-odds survival and the long journey of rebuilding a life that, by all measures, should have been cut short on that dark December night… A courageous story of redemption and empowerment – of a survivor who’s forced to confront the ongoing trauma of her rape but who refuses to be consumed by it.”
Accolades: Best Documentary, Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, 2017, among other awards.
8. Silwerskerm 2018 short film collection | Available from 19 November
Premise: The first instalment of the 2018 kykNET Silwerskerm Film Festival short films will screen on Showmax from Monday, 19 November. The remaining films – Cowboy Dan, Axis Mundi, Fluit Fluit and Kloof – will be coming to Showmax in January 2018.
Why you should watch: Previous short films winners have been remade into award-winning films like Nommer 37 and Vuil Wasgoed.
Accolades: Die Leeftyd van ‘n Orgidee, starring Wilson Dunster and Jana Cilliers, won Best Short Film – 11 Minutes and Best Director for Marí Borstlap. Milan Murray won Best Script – 11 Minutes for Kromkieriefontein. Cinematographer Johannes Pieter Nel won Best Technical for Benjamin.
Other South African hits to look out for include:
- The box office hit romcoms Knysna, with Neels van Jaarsveld and Marguerite Wheatley, and Mrs Right Guy, starring Dineo Moeketsi, Thapelo Mokoena and Lehasa Moloi
- Die Laaste Tango | The Last Tango, the directorial debut of bestselling crime novelist Deon Meyer, which earned Antoinette Louw the Best Actress SAFTA in 2014 for her role as a woman dying of cancer who wants to dance one last tango, even if it’s with a burnt-out, suspended detective (Louw Venter)
- Dora’s Peace, the story of a Hillbrow prostitute shielding a gifted young boy from organised crime. Winner of Best South African Film at the 2016 Jozi Film Festival and a Best Supporting Actress SAFTA for Hlubi Mboya, among other accolades
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