It’s difficult not feeling a sense of pride when I see a film that’s based on people who look and sound the way that I do. Part of my excitement with Black Panther was seeing a Black superhero.
With Menoana e Mehlano ea Marseilles or Five Fingers for Marseilles, it was that much more because it’s a genre-bending Sesotho film, set in the railway town of Marseilles in the Free State. Queue the accordions!
Besides my absolute glee over the film’s language and cultural premise, it also features some of the finest actors and actresses in the country, such as the esteemed Jerry Mofokeng, the award-winning Hamilton Dlamini, Mduduzi Mabaso, Kenneth Nkosi, Warren Masemola, Zethu Dlomo, Brandon Daniels and Vuyo Dabula in the lead role as Tau, to name a few.
The story is that of Tau who, 20 years before, was a part of the young “Five Fingers” band that fought against brutal police oppression for the safekeeping of the rural town of Marseilles.
In a truly unfortunate incident with the apartheid police that the children so valiantly fought to keep at bay, Tau is forced to flee in disgrace.
He finds himself in the city and leads a life as a career criminal until he’s forced to return to Marseilles, where he finds the town under a new threat. It is here that Tau must decide if he’ll take up his position among the town’s freedom fighters.
Most importantly, though, over the years, the Five Fingers have now become crooked politicians, cops, men of the clergy and parents.
The question begs to be asked: in the face of this adversity, will the Five Fingers ride again?
The film is star-studded, so there’s a lot of brilliance in the performances.
Hamilton Dlamini, especially, in the role of the film’s antagonist Sepoko (ghost), is something to behold.
If you’ve ever doubted this thespian’s range as a performer, whether on screen or on stage, you are forced to deal with the simple fact that: The man is good.
The film addresses a wide variety of themes and ideas. One of the more interesting for me has been the re-imagining of the Western genre in a South African narrative.
I hazard to say that some aspects of the Basotho way of life is already similar to the Western lifestyle - the marashea, the horses and maybe that’s why the blending of the two seemed to happen almost seamlessly.
The Sesotho accent in the film, however, especially among the young cast, could have been better. I am a firm believer that when languages are spoken, they must be spoken properly as it’s a sign of respect for that language and the nation of people that it belongs to.
Otherwise, Five Fingers is a good film with a solid storyline.
What I appreciated about it was its simplistic storytelling that relied mainly on the actors and actresses.
It also allows for some very important themes like corruption, crime, the development of violence in smaller towns -and the effects of apartheid that are still being felt in the country today.
Though it’s not an extremely political film, these issues add weight to the action.