Spling reviews Silverton Siege, Gaia and Wild is the Wind as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.
Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…
This week, we’re talking about three movies nominated for Best Film at the South African Film and Television Awards or SAFTAs set to take place in September. Based on the list of film nominees, it seems as though looking and sounding like an international movie are given precedence over how a film lands as a full construct. While technical proficiency in key areas still deserves awards and praise when it comes to style, one would hope more value would be placed on a film’s substance in terms of its invisible filmmaking elements as well as artistic merit, pure originality and intrinsic value.
Starting off a with a heist thriller that garnered 11 SAFTA nominations…
Three young freedom fighters take a bank and its customers hostage in exchange for the release of Nelson Mandela.
Director: Mandla Dube
Stars: Thabo Rametsi, Arnold Vosloo and Noxolo Dlamini
Silverton Siege is based on the actual events surrounding the 1980 hostage crisis, using the shell and basic details of this hostage situation to craft an otherwise fictionalised account. The thriller starts with aplomb, as a quick history lesson sets the scene before the freedom fighters find themselves on the lam, culminating at a frozen-in-time Volkskas bank building. Reminiscent of Stockholm and even Stander, the period piece detail and intricacies of disarming a deadlock situation became the main thrust. Silverton Siege has a professional swagger about it, stoking various political agendas to ramp up the story but finding most of its power in style over substance. The movie leans on many cliches within the subgenre of a bank hostage situation, yet remains fresh by virtue of its South African slant. Unfortunately, while it looks and sounds the part with full-fledged performances from Rametsi and Vosloo, it gets lost in the drama. Failing to make an emotional connection with the characters, it’s event-driven and coasts at an arm’s length. While visually striking and even impassioned at times, the fictionalised scenario lacks impetus, simmers in the futility of a stalemate and begins to run out of inspiration. Getting bogged down too soon, Silverton Siege runs out of steam and doesn’t tease out the full potential of its subplots. While promising, it’s largely undermined by its derivative screenplay, thin characterisation and scattershot focus.
Moving onto an eco-horror thriller with 9 SAFTA nominations…
An injured forest ranger on a routine mission is rescued by two mysterious survivalists.
Director: Jaco Bouwer
Stars: Monique Rockman, Carel Nel and Alex van Dyk
Taking an ecological slant, Gaia serves as a timely commentary on nature’s ability to thrive in the absence of human influence and intervention. This stylish horror thriller starts off like a blend of Deliverance and Predator with a river expedition gone wrong, haunted by an indistinct and translucent forest being. Yet, this gritty and surreal horror thriller takes on a more claustrophobic feel as the forest blooms and the cabin’s walls close in to offer an elegant, cerebral, slow-burning and see-sawing dramatic standoff. While the atmosphere and power dynamics shift to create uneasiness, the characters remain wispy, existing purely as story devices. This helps cultivate some mystery but being so loosely drawn, it’s difficult to be fully immersed in the world of Gaia. What the eco-horror lacks in emotional connection, it makes up for with spellbinding fantasy visuals thanks to a sharp edit, first-rate cinematography and excellent makeup and visual effects. Set against the lush Tsitsikamma forest, Gaia uses its location with a grotesque and organic ebb-and-flow between the real and fabricated. An atmospheric and visually-captivating eco horror thriller, it’s solid performances help anchor the slow-burning and surreal drama as the haunting predicament and suspenseful outcome of these invaders comes full circle.
And finally a sprawling crime drama with 6 SAFTA nominations…
After the body of a young Afrikaner girl is discovered, racial tensions and corruption reach boiling point as two cops try to split a life-changing score.
Writer/Director: Fabian Medea
Stars: Mothusi Magano, Frank Rautenbach and Chris Chameleon
Wild is the Wind is a gritty crime drama centred on two bent cops that attempts to pack the storytelling of an entire series into the space of a feature film. Coasting on the likeability of Magano and Rautenbach, Wild is the Wind’s intriguing plot, good pacing and clipped edit keep you loosely invested. This directorial debut has some great ideas and moments, but as much as Wild is the Wind sticks closely to tried-and-tested elements of the crime drama genre, it’s overly ambitious and the net result is frayed. Instead of focusing on one key aspect, there’s an attempt to corral everything, stretching the bounds of this crime drama to breaking point. Using broad brush strokes, the events of the story compel the drama thanks to its rich blend of action and emotion, yet it remains scattershot and superficial. It’s almost as if the film ran a few drafts short or was salvaged from a mini-series. While Wild is the Wind looks the part, often sounds the part and holds together as a unified film with a curious South African backdrop… the naïve storytelling, scattershot focus, tonal inconsistencies, overworked genre elements and ambitious demands of the project ultimately underwhelm – in spite of the quality of the ingredients.
Personally, I would’ve liked to see more nominations for films such as Pou, Mense van die Wind and Time Spent with Cats is Never Wasted… but given this selection, I’m holding thumbs for Gaia.
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