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Entering the 'Red Room', a bit of a let down

Khanyi Mbau has st Nhlanhla Phillips African News Agency (ANA)

Khanyi Mbau has st Nhlanhla Phillips African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 9, 2019


Last weekend saw the country celebrate the best of the best where local film and television is concerned at the 13th annual South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas).

Part of this ceremony saw the moving tribute to the Samson of Boschendal Sew the Winter to my Skin, walk away with top honours.

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This is indicative of the standard local film-makers are able to create.

Enter Red Room.

The film, a debut by director Sans M and a first for Khanyi Mbau in the executive producer’s chair, delves into the underworld where money, power and greed are the order of the day. This seems good on paper, but there’s just something that doesn’t quite click.

Red Room tells the story of Zama Marawa (Mbau) who has it all, but everything changes the day her husband (Aubrey Poo) dies.

The movie positions itself as a psychological thriller of one woman’s fight for survival.

It is only with this film that I realised the importance of its name.

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One of the things that was quite confusing was discovering that there is another international film with the exact same title, only this one is a horror film. While this may seem fairly harmless, it does not do our local film any favours.

Of all the things that go wrong in the movie, there are a few saving graces and that is particularly the acting. Pakamisa Zwedala plays the role of the caretaker of the women’s shelter and leader of the sex trafficking ring. Zwedala and Mbau are on screen for a large portion, and this is where I was so grateful that they are quality actors.

Despite the fact that the sound at times doesn’t work, with the music becoming so loud you can’t make out what the actors are saying and the weird shaky camera (unless it was the preview theatre’s horrible screen), things seem to make sense.

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The actors, along with the fact that the writers, were creative enough to write a different story, one that doesn’t feel like we have seen this a million times before with different faces.

The storyline, however, gets confusing, and it’s only at the end, after we’ve seen Mbau’s character morph from kept woman to femme fatale and she explains how some of the puzzle pieces fit together.

Will Red Room end up on the Safta14 nominations list next year?

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I’m not sure.

Could it have been a better film? Definitely. It certainly could have been if a little more care had been used by its creators to resolve these pesky little issues.

Red Room is showing in cinemas nationwide.


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