5 SA films and series that made waves internationally in 2020
As the year 2020 comes to a close, we take a look at some of the South African films and documentaries that took the world by storm.
From crime to drama, documentary to action, these locally brewed productions made waves internationally.
Moffie: Drama film
Adapted from an autobiographical 2006 novel by André Carl van der Merwe, Moffie is set in South Africa, 1981, with the white minority government embroiled in a conflict on the southern Angolan border.
Like all white boys over the age of 16, Nicholas Van der Swart (Kai Luke Brummer) must complete two years of compulsory military service to defend the Apartheid regime.
He must survive the brutality of the army – something that becomes even more difficult when a connection is sparked between him and a fellow recruit.
“Moffie” won the Film Critics Special Jury Prize at the 2020 Dublin International Film Festival and has a 100% critics rating from Rotten Tomatoes, with Variety raving, “South African auteur Oliver Hermanus makes his masterpiece with this brutal but radiant story of young gay desire on the Angolan war front... establishing him quite plainly as South Africa’s most vital contemporary filmmaker… Both a shiver-delicate exploration of unspoken desire and scaringly brilliant anatomy of white South African masculinity. It fair takes your breath away.”
Die Verhaal Van Racheltjie De Beer - Drama Film
“Die Verhaal Van Racheltjie De Beer” won the Kidseye award at the 2020 Rhode Island Film Festival, an Oscar-qualifying festival in the USA, as well as three Golden Horns – for Cinematography, Sound Design, and Original Score – at the 2020 SAFTAs.
The beloved heroine of this Afrikaans folktale is brought to life by Zonika de Vries. The stellar cast includes SAFTA Lifetime Achievement Award winner Marius Weyers, Naledi Lifetime Achievement Award winner Sandra Prinsloo, and SAFTA winners Antoinette Louw and Seputla Sebogodi, with newcomer Johannes Jordaan as Jamie. The movie is directed by Matthys Boshoff.
Stroop: Journey Into The Rhino Horn War - Nature documentary
“Stroop: Journey Into The Rhino Horn War” was nominated for the Doclights / NDR Naturfilm Producer Director Award at Wildscreen, arguably the most prestigious wildlife filmmaking event in the world.
The gripping wildlife crime thriller takes the viewer on a rollercoaster ride between Africa and Asia.
Two first-time filmmakers, award-winning editor Susan Scott and 50/50 presenter Bonné de Bod, embed themselves on the frontlines of the rhino poaching crisis, where they are given exclusive access to the war as it unfolds on the ground.
Carving out six months for the project, the two women quickly find themselves immersed in a world far larger and more dangerous than they had imagined, only emerging from their odyssey four years later.
The resulting film has won over 30 international awards, including Best of Festival at The International Wildlife Film Festival, and was shortlisted for two awards at Jackson Wild.
Knuckle City - Action
At the end of November 2020, “Knuckle City” was named the most nominated film at the 2020 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), where it’s up for 12 awards, including Best Film, Best Actor (SAFTA winner Bongile Mantsai from Inxeba (The Wound), Best Director (multiple-SAFTA winner Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, who is also making the upcoming Showmax Original Blood Psalms).
In South Africa’s powerful 2020 Oscar entry, an ageing, womanising professional boxer (Mantsai) and his career-criminal brother (Thembekile Komani) take one last shot at success and get more than they've bargained for.
“It is impossible not to be completely consumed by Knuckle City,” wrote The Globe and Mail when the film premiered at Toronto International Film Festival, describing it as “Raging Bull meets Rocky, but in South Africa” and praising its navigation of “the painful issues of toxic masculinity, age and the impossible-seeming choices one can be forced to make to ensure the survival of themselves and the people they love… Mantsai’s performance is gripping, electrifying and heartbreaking.”
Trackers - Action series
Fresh from outperforming “Game of Thrones” – and everything else on M-Net last year - Trackers was released internationally by HBO and Cinemax in June 2020.
Based on Deon Meyer’s bestselling novel, Trackers has an 88% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
In America, Meaww raved, “Packed with thrills and chills, Trackers whisks viewers towards a violent conspiracy involving organized crime, state security, and an international terrorist plot… James Gracie and Thapelo Mokoena take centre stage with their amazing performances,” while The New York Times called it “a more polished product than Blood & Water… more easily entertaining…. James Gracie… can do a lot with silent looks of doubt and reproach.”
In Israel, Haaretz called it “the guilty pleasure” of the week, adding, “it comes to life when it places Cape Town front and center.” And in New Zealand, Stuff called it “a high-octane thriller… a good rollicking story.”