It’s not often that South African filmmakers produce good comedy. In fact, the best we’re used to is the “toilet humour” (as my father likes to call it) of Leon Schuster. Does anyone except children still find a farting white sangoma funny?
But there’s a new generation of local talent afoot and, finally, there is a movie that is genuinely funny while being truly South African at the same time. First-time director Carl Freimond has brought us Jozi, the local nickname for SA’s largest city, Johannesburg.
James (Carl Beukes) is a comedy writer whose writer’s block has less to do with his cocaine addiction than with the fact that he doesn’t find anything funny anymore. After a group of friends stage an intervention, James is sent to the Daspoort rehabilitation centre – an ominously religious, military-style facility where there has been at least one suspicious death (a reminder of the suspicious death of a ‘patient’ at the Noupoort rehab centre a few years ago perhaps?). This is all just a little too much for James, who escapes and hitches a ride back to Jozi.
But, if James thinks he’s escaped hell, the city of gold has more in store for him. His girlfriend (Jena Dover of KTV-fame)has dumped him for his friend, he has nowhere to live, he becomes a victim of crime and for god’s sake… will the bloody feather duster vendors that decorate each traffic intersection of Jo’burg not let the poor man be?
Jozi is about the city that everyone loves to hate. Everyone (especially European tourists) raves about Cape Town. Everyone hates Bloem (except the people who live there). But Johannesburg has always caused mixed feelings. As James says about Jozi, “Sometimes I love her. Sometimes I hate her”.
From the mine dumps that decorate its outskirts, to the violent crime and the squalor of the inner city, Johannesburg can be a very ugly place. But, as one of James’ new friends, Brenda (Lindiwe Matshikiza), reminds him, Jozi is also a beautiful city. The thunderstorms that highlight the characteristic Ponty-tower skyline, the people, the melting-pot of cultures – these are the things that make Johannesburg a place of hope.
The film will be a great laugh for all South Africans – if you can’t identify with the frustration of having blow-up dolphins, outdated maps and cellphone chargers stuck in your face every time you stop at a traffic light, you’ve been living Downunder for too long.
Director: Craig Freimond
Cast: Carl Beukes, Lionel Newton, Jena Dover, Nick Boraine, Lindi Matshikiza
Rating: 4 out of 5