Strength and Determination

Beyond the River

Director: Craig Freimond

Cast: Lemogang Tsipa, Grant Swanby, Garth Breytenbach, Ben Voss, Paul du Toit, Emily Child, Israel Makoe, Kgosi Mongake

It’s comforting to watch a really well made and engrossing South African film. Director Craig Freimond’s sports drama Beyond the River focuses on two men from vastly different socio-economic backgrounds who come together and team up to do the gruelling Dusi Canoe marathon from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, a distance of 120 kilometres which takes place annually in February.

Audiences first glimpse Duma an athletic young man as he is persuaded to do cable theft in the township near where he lives in Soweto. His poverty-stricken background clearly inhabits Duma from reaching his full potential and his risk of being sucked into a life of crime is narrowly avoided when he escapes being caught by the police. His one-time canoeing coach Oupa played by Israel Makoe (Tsosti, The First Grader) encourages Duma to take up canoeing again, where discipline and sportsmanship are required.

In a different social spectrum is Steve Andrews brilliantly played by Grant Swanby, a determined man desperate to complete the Dusi canoe marathon yet his first attempt is scuppered when his canoe snaps in half and he literally runs to the finish line at the mouth of the Umgeni River in Durban.

Director Freimond does not shy away from the complex issue of racial inequalities and emphasizes that sportsmanship is the way to achieve one’s goals in a post-apartheid South Africa continually beset with socio-economic problems. Freimond does not dwell on divisive politics, yet wisely focuses on an uplifting story of how Duma and Steve form a sport man’s bond as they team up to train and compete in the Dusi canoe marathon.

The emotional crux of the story comes when both men let each other into their lives and gain a better perspective of where each man is coming from and what past occurrences have haunted their lives.

Duma, wonderfully played by Lemogang Tsipa who maintains a powerful screen presence, is battling to deal with the loss of his bread-winning mother and has to contend with his overbearing father and younger sister who is battling to be educated in a poverty-stricken environment.

Steve’s marriage to Annie played by Emily Child is on the verge of collapse as he battles to come to terms with the loss of their only son through a freak car accident. Eventually Steve and Duma both confide in each other in order to make their partnership stronger.

Beyond the River is a riveting tale of sportsmanship beautifully filmed in Gauteng and along the Msunduzi and Mgeni Rivers showcasing spectacular scenery in KwaZulu-Natal as the two men battle the raging rivers and eventually make it to Durban.

Through strength and determination both men manage to achieve their goal despite their apparent differences. Beyond the River also features some cameo’s by several South African actors including Ben Voss (Spud, 31 Million Reasons), Black Sails TV star Paul du Toit,  Garth Breytenbach (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom). Kgosi Mongake (Invictus, The Bang Bang Club) is particularly noteworthy as Duma’s rogue friend Zama who unfortunately succumbs to criminal influences.

As an inspirational sports film, Beyond the River is solidly acted and beautifully shot gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10. Highly recommended viewing especially for Dusi canoe enthusiasts.

Dusi Canoe Marathon – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dusi_Canoe_Marathon

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