Not a bullseye by any means. Compared to Fishy Stones, which is frankly quite terrible, Van Der Merwe shows us that he is more at home with the outback action of 'Wild West by JoBerg' than with an SA crime thriller. The director is good; you can sense his enjoyment at putting this film together. And I concede after watching two performances that Gumede is a fine actor.
tbh this is in no way worse than the million generic westerns churned out by Hollywood over several decades. The plot is so loose it's floppy; there is zero pacing, zero character development... it gets 5 stars from me because unlike the million Hollywood westerns it stands as an amazing piece of history. If only it didn't give Black women such short shrift.
Now this is why we seek out the cinematic 'outcasts'. It tries so damn hard, and gets an 'A' for effort. The narrative swaggers into the bar and acts like it owns the joint, which it mostly does - and even though it has no idea what it's doing, it holds its liquor. Genre appropriation is rarely this earnest.
Compared to previous Tonie van der Merwe's films I watched, this is a huge step up - the scale of the production is respectable: the number of actors, supporting cast, the set itself. The music this time fits the theme of the film, the plot makes sense, and camerawork is slightly more refined too - I loved the colours. I have to say, this is a unique piece of film-making, especially considering the circumstances.
Not only is the notion of a Zulu Western (complete with English signage such as "Saloon" and "County Jail" as well as a soundtrack featuring American folk music, cheesy '80s tracks, and orchestral pieces paired with silly landscape shots) completely absurd, the movie feels as though van der Merwe pulled these folks off the street to act in some earnest but necessarily limited home movie. Silly, yes, but charming.
Although it was interesting for me to watch a South African Western, this wasn't really a great film. Unable to overcome many obvious limitations, there is still some fun to be had for those who can accept the flaws, mainly because of the fun derived from watching such a curio piece.
This is my second Van Der Merwe film and I must say that given budget restraints and the restrictions of the time, this is a marvelous little film. Well paced, lovely evocative setting and a real feeling for the genre and its archetypes. I find it churlish to complain about some small shortcomings. Great camera shots, wonderful horse riding and actual nuanced performances, capturing some of the poetry of westerns.
(3.5 stars) The 3rd South African "Z-Movie" that I've watched now and BY FAR the best. The director does a good job of getting the tone right for a western. Something about the cheap shoestring budget style that works very well for this western tale. The inexperienced acting doesn't stand out as badly and so the movie works. Very strong output from these filmmakers under very tough conditions. Very impressed.
Having grown up in Apartheid South Africa (through no fault of my own) I saw first hand the basic visceral so-called "entertainment" the majority had to make do with. It brings back memories, not a great example of film making per se but anthropologically unmissable.