Another Academy Award for South Africa?

Firstly, something bears initial clarification: South African cinema is slow, but gradually developing its cinematic repertoire  from a previously, predominately political-centric one,into more open-ended and globally appealing genres. Obviously, the social commentary is not something easily put aside simply to appease the standardized recipe for Blockbuster hits. However, South Africans have harnessed the unquestionable potency of raw,rich material from the African motif, to create its own brand of films that gain global acclaim because of their ability to captivate audiences  because of the blatant realistic truths in its content.South African cinema specifically, delves into the blurred lines of verisimilitude.

Since Gavin Hood and his cast on the film ” Tsotsi ” brought South Africans their first Academy Award(Oscar) with a story that combined elements of Hollywood thrillers and South Africa’s crime action genre together, the film industry has been overwhelmed with stories that have slowly transcended the norm of referring to South Africa‘s Apartheid past as the only defining characteristic worthy of focusing on. “How to Steal 2 million” , ” Dredd “, ” Night Drive ” ,” The Bang Bang Club “, and ” Material ” are some of 2012-13s biggest releases starring international stars like Karl Urban ,Lena Headey , Taylor Kitsch and Terry Pheto. The stories are there to serve as entertainment,bearing subtle nuances of displayed social commentary. Issues of poaching,gross human rights violations of race or cultural oppression, and dystopic influences of omniscient foreign power come to the fore.

One of the things South Africa captivates the world with is its locations; the views,history and the sometimes clustered colorful displays of culture and tradition make SA one of the best places to film. History in cinema is often one of the most powerful tools of exercising control over audiences and the market. The Pollsmoor prison is a place that has been used for this very reason. During South Africa’s “Freedom Day” in 2005, Mikhael Subotzky used the location to exhibit his photography,referred to as panoramic. The content was of the inside of the prison, and so also being exhibited there was a tool so ” viewers were part of the bureaucracy of getting into and eventually being locked into the maximum security prison.” The exhibition was titled “Die Vier Hoeke” translated from Afrikaans to mean “The Four Corners”. The constraints posed by jail cell space is the point Subotzky chooses to focus on, and it highlights the extent of the sacrifices made by jailed political heroes during Apartheid.

The movie “Four Corners” is directed by one Ian Gabriel, and is South Africa’s official selection for the 86th annual Academy Awards (Oscars) “Best foreign language” category. “Four Corners” is in reference to the four corners of a prison cell, as well as the four corners of chessboards- a reoccurring theme of chess in the film that refers to power plays between gangs,the law and normal people living in the Cape Town area the movie is based in.

The premise of the movie is around Ricardo Galam- a 13 year old Capetonian child only recently out of prepubescent residing within the Cape Flats’ subculture of gangs. This is a child prodigy who becomes the soul battled for. A returning surgeon, a policeman, gang leader and reformed prison general are all entwined in this boys story. The movie progresses using the child’s Bildungsroman with the intent of revealing the danger and power posed by the culture of child gangs in Cape Town, a place notorious for this. It also makes references to the instability of family units in South Africa due to circumstance-either forced upon people, or willingly embraced for reasons.

From the trailer one can pic up that the crime thriller is well filmed, using wide camera shots and hand-held close-ups to play on intimacy and forced detachment in order to relay the unbalanced state of the central protagonist.It is said the budget was even lower than the norm of a South African film budget, that the cast was easily comprised of beginners from around the area, and sprinkles of cinema veterans. The Academy Awards (Oscar) nominations will be announced on January 10th 2014, and the official ceremony will be held on February 24th 2014.


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