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Stars: Brendon Daniels, Jezzriel Skei, Irshaad Ally, Lindiwe Matshikiza, Abduragman Adams

Director: Ian Gabriel

This gritty, frequently grim and inherently violent story of feuding gangs whose members are deprived and desolated and trapped in a bleak environment – in this case the terrifying world of South Africa’s Cape Flats - has resonances of many similar slum-set gang-fight movies.

It says much, therefore, for screenwriters Terence Hammond and Hofmeyr Scholtz and director Ian Gabriel that this often overwrought genre melodrama works so well.

They’re helped, of course, by a cast of unknowns which automatically adds veracity and, additionally, by vivid location cinematography (Vicci Turpin) which makes the most of the key location - Cape Town’s almost unbelievable Cape Flats township – and adds dramatic punch.

The opening sequences set in “South Africa’s toughest maximum Security prison – Pollsmoor” set the essential tone of the film – the choice between gang membership and possible death and violence as a standard way of life.

Gang general Brendon Daniels, freed from Pollsmoor after 15 years, decides to find his long-estranged 13-year-old son Jezzriel Skei, triggering off a second coming-of-age story to mitigate the vivid violence.

Other narrative strands, one involving a senior police officer, are woven in by Gabriel (who deserves extra praise for location filming that never descends to tourist-friendly shots of Table Mountain) and while the end result is not exactly ground-breaking the film, South Africa’s Official Selection for Best Foreign Language Film, at the 86th Academy Awards is nonetheless a fascinating and valuable genre addition.

Alan Frank

South Africa 2013. UK Distributor: Munro Films. Colour.
119 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 04 Jun 2015