Film

‘Matwetwe’ Captures The Essence of South African Life Without Conforming to the Hollywood Gaze

South African comedian Kagiso Lediga and DJ Black Coffee have produced a frenetic but heartwarming ode to boyhood

Lefa and Papi race through the township and almost stumble over each other as they pursue the guy who's just stolen their bag containing all the weed they've ever cultivated—thousands of Rands worth of weed. The gag is, the thief has a gun (they don't) and keeps looking back to try to shoot at them. The tension is palpable. At the last possible minute, the thief jumps into a getaway car which appears out of nowhere, mind you. The two boys drop to the floor and simply lie on the dusty street in frustrated defeat.


Executive produced by DJ Black Coffee and written and directed by the seasoned comedian Kagiso Lediga, Matwetwe (wizard) is about two best friends Lefa (Sibusiso Khwinana) and Papi (Tebatso Mashishi), who live in Atteridgeville, a township in Pretoria, South Africa's capital city.

Papi is the street smart cool-kid whose father, a former taxi boss, was gunned down and murdered, whilst Lefa is the shy and reserved nerd who is set to go and study Botany at Wits University. Papi's entrepreneurial spirit and Lefa's botanical know-how allows them to cultivate their own weed (which they name Matwetwe) and sell it all over the township as part of their hustle.

The film starts off on a high (excuse the pun) from the get-go. DJ Mujava's classic banger "Mugwanti wa Pitori" opens up the first scene where there are beautifully shot aerial views of the township. It captures the authentic essence of the township with images of shacks packed closely together as well as brick houses in the better parts of the township.

Right from the beginning, the film isn't attempting to be what it's not - some Americanized version of what South African life looks like. It's right there in the trenches so to speak and authentically so. This is what other popular South African films such as Mrs Right Guy and even Happiness is a Four-Letter Word failed to do.

What Matwetwe has achieved, unlike other South African films, is capturing the true essence of South African life as it is without needing to conform to the Hollywood gaze. There are no forced American accents save for two characters (but they're just trying to act cool) and no tired stereotypical tropes of what it means to be South African.

Three narrators describe the events as they unfold. This particular 'theater style' allows for more engagement with the viewers and brings in comedic relief when Lefa and Papi's thrilling escapades have you on the edge of your seat. The fact that the three narrators sometimes interject with other stories, for example, Lefa's neighbour (who is hiding his dead wife's body in their house) or Barotho (who lost his sanity after his girlfriend died in a car accident) speaks to the multifaceted life of the township. There is no end to the peculiar characters who make daily life just that much more interesting.

"Mugwanti" is just the first of several South African musical classics to add vibrancy to the film. You'll be singing along to hits you'd almost forgotten. This includes Khuli Chana's "Mnatebawen," Bugzito's "Maratong," Black Coffee and Nakhane's "We Dance Again" and Stogie T's "Going Gorilla," among others.

The film has a refreshingly fresh-faced cast which is important at a time when South Africans have been debating the opening up of the entertainment industry to new talent. The two young stars of the film show that a production doesn't always need veteran actors and actresses at its helm to make it a success. What's also important is how Tebatso Mashishi, who has albinism, is one of the main actors in the film. In a country where people who have albinism are still stigmatized and even physically harmed because of their condition, seeing Mashishi on the screen is so fitting because representation matters.

At the heart of the film is also the theme of absent fathers, something many South Africans can relate to. Whilst Papi's father is absent because he died, Lefa's father is absent because he has unsurprisingly started another family elsewhere. Lefa is now left in the care of his grandmother who is always visibly worried about whether Lefa's father will eventually pay his university fees or disappoint him yet again.

Perhaps the most obvious and poignant theme of this film is that of friendship. But more so, friendship that has to exist in a sense, in two different realities. While the one young man, Papi, is well-off, he seems comfortable with life in the township, as long as he can make some money for himself. On the other hand, his friend Lefa, is tired of that life, and the opportunity to go and study is one he wants to seize with both hands.

In one of the last scenes of the movie, Papi expresses how he is going to miss Lefa when he goes off to university. It's sad that many a friendship has not survived because of just that. We talk about the ones who get to leave the township with tremendous excitement, but we often forget those who stay behind.







popular
Photo courtesy of Doble Seis Entertainment

Burna Boy, Teni, AKA, Sho Madjozi, Mr Eazi & More Earn 2019 BET Award Nominations

This year's "Best International Act" categories are stacked with some of the biggest names in African pop.

The nominees for this year's BET Awards have been announced, and one again, some of the biggest names in African pop have been named in the " International Act" categories.

This year, Nigerian acts Burna Boy, Mr Eazi have been nominated in the "Best International Act" category. They've each had standout years, with both artists performing at the Coachella Music Festival this year.

They're nominated alongside South African star rapper AKA, who won a Kids' Choice Award earlier this year for "Favorite South African Star," and the French-Malian pop singer and one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women Aya Nakamura. French-Cameroonian and Togolese rapper Dosseh and UK rappers Dave, and Giggs round out the heavily-stacked category.

Keep reading... Show less
Film
Photo still courtesy of Chika Okoli.

This New Documentary Sheds Light On the History of a Beloved Nigerian Staple—Agege Bread

'Fresh Agege Bread' by Chika Okoli's FABA gives us a much-needed insight into the popularity of Nigeria's coveted Agege Bread.

This new documentary following Nigeria's own Agege Bread contributes to the need of preserving and documenting food culture on the continent.

In Fresh Agege Bread, directed and produced by filmmaker Chika Okoli of FABA (For Africans By Africans), we follow food researcher Ozoz Sokoh as she traces the history and popularity of Agege Bread featuring its pioneering bakers, community figureheads and locals. The documentary touches on the rise of the booming product as well as addresses some of the controversies around the health and safety measures applied in the production of this staple.

For Okoli, the inability to find such insights about this significant food in Nigerian culture is what inspired her to develop this documentary.

"Agege Bread is so popular in Lagos but shockingly, there is very little information about it online and the same can be said about other cultural elements that are significant to our way of life," she shares with us.

Keep reading... Show less
News
amA picture taken on May 17, 2019 in Berlin shows a Stone Cross, a key 15th-century navigation landmark erected by Portuguese explorers, seen at the History Museum in Berlin. (Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Germany to Return Stolen 15th Century Stone Cross to Namibia

Germany's Culture Minister says the move is a "clear sign" that the country is committed to coming to terms with its colonial past.

In the latest development in the movement towards African art repatriation, the German government will return a 15th-century Portuguese stone cross that has been in its possession since the colonial era, back to its original home in Namibia.

The cross was a navigation landmark placed on the coastline of present-day Namibia in 1496, before it was taken in the late 17th century under German colonial rule, BBC Africa reports.

The Namibian government put out a request for its return back in 2017, and the request was formally approved today by the Berlin Museum. The cross is set to be returned in August, according to a statement from the museum.

READ: Taking Back Our History: Understanding African Art Repatriation

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.