Between Friends

DIRECTOR: Zuko Nodada

CAST: Thapelo Mokoena, Amanda du Pont, Dumisane Mbebe, Siyabonga Radebe


RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes





TYLER Perry tackles The Wild, with a generous streak of soapy Generations magic for good measure. That must have been the logline used to sell this particular film to the distributor.

The Wild because the whole thing is set at a KZN game lodge and there are plenty of shots of random animals wandering around the bushveld. Tyler Perry because he has made a name for himself putting black people on to the big screen.

Generations magic because that particular soap opera has worked out its formula of stretching illogical emotional tension across filmed sequences and they have found their audience.

The idea of old university friends reuniting after several years may not be a novel concept, but it is a great excuse to throw some people into a room with some ready-made excuses for fireworks.

Old resentments, secrets and unfinished business should rear up because these people already know each other and would probably pick up where they left off.

Well, this particular set of friends didn’t really leave off anywhere special, and don’t pick up on anything noteworthy when they get together.

If this is what the moneyed black set in South Africa are aspiring to, well, then they are a pretty boring lot – all about pretty clothes (for boys and girls alike), chasing the tail (for the boys) and the moolah (for the girls), all while trying to ignore dad’s insistence on fiscal and social responsibility.

Njabulo (Siyabonga Radebe) is hosting everyone at his father’s game lodge in KZN, years after they all graduated and went their separate ways, trying to impress but just leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth with his wannabe playa ways.

His younger brother Nkanyiso (Thapelo Mokoena) brings along his latest girlfriend, Nisha (Amanda du Pont), but apparently there seems to be something going on between little brother and Linda (Lihle Dhlomo).

Linda doesn’t seem too impressed when her Canadian fiancé, Justin (Morné du Toit), finally pitches up in Aaaa-freee-kaaaah.

Oh, and don’t forget about henpecked Winston (Dumisani Mbebe) and ice queen Portia (Mandisa Nduna) because apparently black South African guys only come in two types, manly men who chase everything in a skirt, or whipped ones dominated by their wives and therefore subservient.

On the plus side, a lot of money was spent on the wardrobe and technical aspects like grading and finding shots of animals at the waterhole.

On the downside the script is so formulaic as to be paint by numbers, characters do not evince any sort of growth other than increasing desperation to get the heck off this film set and the storyline does not fire the imagination in any way.

The soundtrack is bland, with no track standing out, and the cheesiest of bad cheese wannabe gospel number supposedly capping the emotional intensity of what should be THE scene when the one guy finally confronts the one girl about how they really feel about each other.

Apparently they feel… bored? Cold? Slightly on edge because that song is whiny? Ready to run off with each other into the sunset?

Tell you who does run away from the story – at least three of the named characters. At one point they succumb to the lack of a script that moves in one cohesive direction and they literally run away from the film, leaving a whole sub-plot hanging.

People love seeing themselves reflected on the big screen and in the absence of local films with familiar personas, South Africans, black South Africans especially, flock to movies by Tyler Perry because at least there is something to identify with. Even if so many criticise him for using stereotypes, that is countered by others answering that the reason his films work is because people see them- selves reflected in the characters.

But simply trying to recreate his films on the Highveld is doing the audience a disservice. The point is to tell a story that doesn’t always make it to the local big screen, the way Perry creates a space for personas that Hollywood ignores.

The point is not to redo the films Perry has already made.

The film production notes quote the director as saying their partners requested “a glossy, upmarket film in the vein of the ‘black films’ we have seen from the US over the last couple of years”, so I’m not just making this up.

It really happened.

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