DIRECTOR: Daryne JoshuaCAST: Dann-Jaques Mouton, Gantane Kusch, Christian Bennett, Gershwin Mias, Abduraghmaan Adams, Oscar Petersen, Tarryn Wyngaard, Peter Butler, Irshaad Ally, Charlton George, Lee-Ann van Rooy, Jill Levenberg, Sandi Schultz


RUNNING TIME: 150 minutes

RATING: ****

Divided into chapters with a preamble just like a story book, Noem My Skollie brings home the idea that we make ourselves through story – that we constantly reinvent our identity through and in the stories we tell about ourselves.

And, very specifically, that we coloured people are constantly doing that in the now, because our stories of before are lost to us. And, there is a price to pay for this.While it is set in the world of The Numbers, the scary gangs that dominate South African prisons, this movie is about one man’s journey.

Benefiting greatly from a compelling perfor­mance from Dann-Jaques Mouton, the film is as much the tale of one man’s determination to steer clear of gangs as it is about the power of stories.Mouton plays AB Lonzi, a kid growing up on the Cape Flats in the 1960s who knows there is strength in belonging to a gang, but is slow to wake up to the danger.

The film’s scratchy opening shots are of a march on Long Street and the era-specific cars and clothing set the mood. Sets are carefully dressed with era-specific knick knacks and the art direction sucks you right back to the appropriate time.

The first part of the film is the set-up (necessary, but it takes too long) which gives us the teenaged AB (Austin Rose) and his three best friends, Gimba (Ethan Patton), Gif (Joshua Vraagom) and Shorty (Valentino de Klerk). Vowing to always look out for each other, they start their own little gang, the Young Ones, which drags them into the violent world of theft and casual murder occupied by their fathers, uncles and adult males around them.

Years later, AB (now played by Mouton) and Gimba (Kusch) are sentenced to two years in prison, where AB really hones his skills as a storyteller.

Determined to stay out of the gangs, he tells stories to keep the inmates amused and himself out of harm’s way, while Gimba follows a different path for protection.Mouton makes for an engaging storyteller with expansive gestures, a mobile face and well-modulated voice.

Later, when AB is out of prison, the leather jacket-wearing street tough asserts himself, but the storyteller will out.Other than Denise Newman’s great cameo as a slightly dim but very nosey neighbour, the women remain in the background, with makeup that beautifully disguises their relative ages.

Everyone’s ghd hair looks great, but just how true that is to the era remains to be debated. Newman’s entry provides a light-hearted moment, leavening the constant tone of dread and heightened sense of impending peril that lurks in the background.Oscar Peterson is especially chilling as a creepy dump manager, while newcomer, David Manuel, makes for a menacing gang boss as Gums.

Taking its cue from the writing and real-life experience of John W Fredericks, the script spans several years, is crammed full of action and the Afrikaans dialogue is meaty.

The English subtitles are almost too polite and even dramatically inert, straightforward when compared to the emotionally charged original repartee.

Kyle Shepherd’s sparse, wistful score accentuates rather than dominates, and the filmmakers aren’t afraid to just eschew music to create atmosphere in some scenes and let the actions do the talking.If you liked Abraham, you will like this.A scene from Noem My Skollie.