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HARD TO GET
DIRECTOR: Zee Ntuli
CAST: Pallance Dladla, Thishiwe Ziqubu, Israel Makoe, Pakamisa Zwedala and Jerry Mofokeng
CLASSIFICATION: 16 DLSV
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
HARD to Get is an important film for South Africa. Cinema is weakening throughout the world because of the internet and technology. The wonderful, larger- than-life concept of the big screen is being lost to young people’s fascination with small screens like smartphones and tablets and what they can do in terms of technology.
Most under-30s would rather tweet throughout a film than allow themselves to become absorbed or lost in that world for an hour or two. So how do filmmakers get audiences back into the cinema?
Hard to Get is one of the those films that could achieve this. It speaks to the youth. It is carefree, hard-hitting, fast-paced, glamorous, unrepentant in its violence, dirty, funny and very, very sexy.
The film opens in a small township tavern where the elder men, including Mofokeng, are watching a door intently. Behind the door an amorous TK (Dladla) is having his way with two women.
All this changes when Skiets (Ziqubu) enters the tavern. When she rejects TK he becomes obsessed with her. They share a night of passion, which is beautifully shot by the film’s director, Ntuli.
Throughout the film, Ntuli manages to suspend practicality for something more romanticised. Apart from scenes shot at sunset or sunrise, there is no sense of real time. Things happen when they need to happen.
When Skiets returns on the arm of ultra violent local gangster, Mugza (Makoe), TK becomes jealous. Things begin to go really wrong when Mugza discovers that Skiets has stolen the car keys to his prized possession – a bright red gushesh, or BMW 325i.
In a horrific and graphic scene including slow-motion shots of Mugza beating Skiets, TK dives in to save her and so begins the roller- coaster ride.
They race off in the gushesh towards Joburg where they meet a dangerous crime lord by the name of Gumede (Zwedala) who falls for the gorgeous Skiets. When Gumede makes a move on Skiets, TK decides to rob one of Gumede’s jewellery stores.
The film definitely takes its cue from early Quentin Tarantino offerings with its gratuitous violence. This means that it can, at times, be construed as naive by seasoned film watchers.
This also means that, despite its fast pace, the storyline sometimes trundles towards the inevitable.
However, Ntuli makes up for this in his creative and stylish cinema-tography. There are awesome shots of the city of Joburg. The love scenes are shot with blissful intimacy. And, for the girls, we get to see a smouldering Dladla.
The film breaks the ruthless violence with some very funny scenes. These include an angry Makoe in a packed taxi racing off to find his car and Skiets in Joburg somewhere.
Skiets is an interesting character. She gets smacked around by three men in the film, yet she fearlessly fights back. Her character is highly manipulative and she also refuses to let her emotions rule her.
TK, on the other hand, is the weaker character. He falls in love with her and as a result will do anything and everything to please her and keep her. For him, the journey with Skiets is a coming-of-age experience and it certainly is a difficult and desperate journey.
Hard to Get is one of the first films made in South Africa in this genre and it has been done well. This film, hopefully, will kickstart the youth into returning to cinemas.
THREE VIOLENT MEN AND A SEXY LADY
Therese Owen got the inside story on the four main characters in Hard to Get from the actors who play them.
Pallance Dladla is the hottest actor in South Africa right now. This good-looking young man has featured in TV shows for DStv and the SABC and is setting hearts afire in e.tv’s Rhythm City.
As the male lead in Hard to Get, Dladla proves that his career is set for big things. To compare him with any other great South African actor like Vusi Kunene or Sello Maake ka Ncube is not good enough. Dladla is carving out a career in a new and fast-changing world. He is intelligent enough to understand his young audience, which only adds to his great acting skills.
About TK, his Hard to Get character, Dladla had this to say: “Ego is a big thing for him and it controlled his life. TK lived in one area that he would probably never have left if he hadn’t met Skiets (played by Thishiwe Ziqubu).
“He never had a mother and was raised mostly by men. Skiets brought a different energy to his world and his consciousness shifted to the extreme. Skiets needed someone to keep her alive, someone who was carefree, and TK was that someone.
“Women were his vice, but he never treated women as beneath him. With Skiets, he recognised his manhood.”
There is an extremely violent scene in which TK fights with one of the baddies in the film, Gumede (played by Pakamisa Zwedala). It takes place in and around a penthouse swimming pool.
“Someone had forgotten to heat the pool . It was so cold. We filmed that scene two weeks into shooting. I truly discovered my character when we started shooting. Zee Ntuli (director) had been guiding me and would bring me to the character. What I got from my core energy and my crew I had to give back to the film.”
Her journey from the small screen to the big screen has been monumental. The camera loves Ziqubu. She oozes sexuality from the moment she walks on set.
Her character, Skiets, has a confidence that, together with her stubbornness in letting go of her emotions, makes her something of an enigma. When asked if her character manipulates others for her selfish gains, Ziqubu laughs: “I don’t think she is nasty, although some have remarked that Skiets is such a b***h. She’s a broken person, like all of us. I was quite surprised when a woman came up to me to say how strong she thought Skiets was. Despite the storyline, Skiets is not about killing or crime. Skiets is just trying to protect herself, which means she can’t find love. That is why she pulls back from TK.”
Ziqubu also says she learnt a lot from working with fellow actors, Israel Makoe and Jerry Mofokeng.
Her TV experience includes End Game and Your Move. She has also written and directed for Isidingo, Rhythm City and Scandal.
She was schooled in KZN and studied at Afda in Joburg.
“Acting came later,” she says. “It was actually Akin Omotoso who first approached me about acting. I was too shy. He asked if I would act in his film, Jesus and the Giant, and I turned him down, but agreed to act in his next film, Man On Ground. I also featured in his new film, Tell Me Sweet Something. The film was workshopped and again I learnt so much, this time from Lionel Newton.”
The role of Skiets is quite physical. There is a scene in which Makoe’s character beats up Skiets, but she courageously fights back.
“We had to go for stunt training and focused a lot on the body.”
There is another scene that takes place in a butchery in which she is strapped to a meat hook. Again, her tenacious character manages to escape.
“That scene looked easy, but it was the most gruelling scene for me.”
No one can do evil, raging violence quite like Makoe. Some believe he is typecast, but this majestic actor has proved he can do comedy, and do it well. Just observe his character in Zone 14; a loveable, eccentric spiritual advisor who has a passion for designing clothes.
However, in Hard to Get, Makoe exorcises his demons. Yet, he also gets to explore his comedic side as the hard-core and violent gangster, Mugza.
“I grew up under the influence of rude people,” he explains.
“My step-grandfather was very rude. I experienced pain. I knew how to be angry and not to be happy. That’s what I knew from school to my family.
“I never had a father. He was mentally disturbed when I was born. When I get roles portraying anger I think of the sabotage of not making my dreams come true.
“As an actor I can control my emotions. I am a dreamer and I knew that I was going to be an actor. With Yizo Yizo, director Angus Gibson saw that I had certain powers and he wrote a part for me. That was after I was released from jail in 1999.
“He first saw me in a play I had written and in which I also played the lead. Meshack Mavuso and I were part of the Victory Sonaba Theatre Company in Alexander township.
“Angus wanted me to replace another character after the actor had left in Yizo Yizo. But then he decided it would be better if he created a character for me.”
Makoe played the part of the young Tstotsi’s father in the Oscar- winning film. In that role, as minor as it was, Makoe certainly made his mark as a very cruel and menacing man. And he recently starred in the highly successful iNumber Number.
In Hard to Get, Makoe is brilliant. His violence is terrifying in its authenticity, yet there is also a vulnerable side to him, one that comes from his low self-esteem which in turn propels him to perpetrate automatic violence. One of his best performances yet.
Zwedala’s portrayal of Gumede is just plain nasty. His character reeks of evil from beginning to end. His expensive suits, plush flat and apparent readiness to depart with the money cannot hide the fact that Gumede is an awful human being devoid of compassion.
Zwedala executes the role with precision, ensuring that the dark presence of Gumede is felt throughout the film.
While he studied performance in theatre and film at UCT, Zwedala has a day job as a diplomat.
In fact, he had just returned from working in Hong Kong when he received a call from the producers of Hard to Get.
“I picked up surfing when I was in Hong Kong, but acting is my passion. I had just finished a film in Hong Kong directed by Liam Dante and starring Jay Chow, who is a big actor in Asia. I played the part of a US special forces officer and we shot it in Jordan.”
Soapie fans will have seen him on Rhythm City in the role of Fausto.
He has also starred in theatre productions such as Hamlet, Othello and Romeo and Juliet. One of his favourite memories was acting in Master Harold and the Boys at the Sandton Theatre. It was directed by James Ngcobo.
About his character in Hard to Get, Zwedala says he can’t make a judgement call on Gumede.
In one scene, Gumede has hired a prostitute, but can only get turned on when he starts smacking the woman around.
“Clearly, he has problems. To get into his head I had to give him a backstory. The first time he saw sex, it was a rape scene. Once I had the backstory locked in, it was all systems go.
“What he recognises in Skiets is what he longs for.”
He says that some of his more controversial roles worry him.
“I am a Seventh-Day Adventist and sometimes I worry about how they will react. There are days when I am drained after acting. I take a shower or a bubble bath and I walk because I know that the next day I have to do it all again.”