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'Daring' SA film 'Sew the Winter to My Skin' makes waves globally

Peter Kurth and Kandyse McClure in Sew the Winter to My Skin. Picture: Supplied

Peter Kurth and Kandyse McClure in Sew the Winter to My Skin. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 6, 2019


‘Sew the Winter to My Skin’, directed by Jahmil X. T Qubeka (director of the famed ‘Of Good Report’), opens nationwide this Friday, February 8.

The much-anticipated film was chosen as South Africa’s official submission for the 2019 Academy Awards. It also won the award for Best South African Feature Film at the Cape Town International Film Festival.

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‘Sew the Winter to My Skin’ stars Ezra Mabengeza in the lead, as well as Zolisa Xaluva, Bok van Blerk, Mandisa Nduna and Bongile Mantsai, in an unorthodox reimagining of the story of John Kepe, a legendary outlaw of pre-apartheid South Africa. 

The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2018, where it was in official competition. 

The Hollywood Reporter described it as "daring" and "visionary", calling it "real history filtered through the golden haze of myth".

Toronto noted that the film conveys the "narrative primarily through artfully crafted scenes and the physicality and expressiveness of its actors."

"Watching the films of Jean-Jacques Annaud, I was inspired by the profound impact, particularly of ‘Quest for Fire’ and ‘The Bear’, both of which are very plot driven yet have no dialogue,’ said Qubeka.

At the Africa International Film Festival in Nigeria, Ezra Mabengeza won the award for Best Actor, while Qubeka took home the award for Best Director.

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Distinctly South African in flavour, but universal in its themes, the film re-interprets the remarkable tale of Kepe (Ezra Mabengeza), the self-proclaimed ‘Samson of the Boschberg’, born around 1898, who became a type of Robin Hood figure in 1940s South Africa. 

The film focusses on Kepe the myth, reimagining the elusive and mysterious sheep rustler as a powerful emblem of resistance to white colonial rule at the time. 

He also creates the fictionalised posse that is on Kepe's trail, led by Nazi sympathizer General Botha (Peter Kurth), and a flamboyantly mustached sidekick, Black Wyatt Earp (Zolisa Xaluva). The film attempts to explore the settler mentality and offer insight into the posse’s perspective and context.  

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"The very roots of external struggles such as land redistribution are embedded in an internal meditation or yearning. Dignity seems to be the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. 

"I wanted to offer some insight into what I believe to be mankind’s inherent need to feed into mythologies that conveniently suit the order of the day. I wanted to tell an authentic South African tale in the epic scale of classic adventure films of my childhood,’ added Qubeka.


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