Posts Tagged ‘Lemogang Tsipa’

The Vipers of Sophiatown

Back of the Moon

DIFF winner – Best South African Feature Film 2019

Director: Angus Gibson

Cast: Richard Lukunku, Moneoa Monash,Lemogang Tsipa, Israel Matseke-Zulu, Sicelo Dlamini, Siyabonga Thwala

One of the best films I saw at the 40th Durban International Film Festival http://ccadiff.ukzn.ac.za/ was director Angus Gibson’s period gangster film Back of the Moon featuring an all-star South African cast including Lemogang Tsipa (The Eye in the Sky, Beyond the River) as the ruthless gangster Ghost.

Back of the Moon deservedly won Best South African Feature Film at the Durban International Film Festival #DIFF 2019.

Back of the Moon is set in Sophiatown in 1958 as the South African Apartheid government are about to enforce removals of the Sophiatown residents out of the district to Meadowlands which is on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

Director Angus Gibson captures all the brutal essence of a gangster film, with the notorious gang The Vipers causing havoc at the Back of the Moon, while Sophiatown’s local celebrity Eve Msomi glitters as the main act at the more upmarket Casablanca nightclub.

Eve and Badman one Fateful Night

The Vipers gang go behind their leader Badman’s back and unbeknownst to him kidnap Eve as she dazzles the crowd at the Casablanca nightclub on a fateful night. Badman was asleep and woke up to discover his gang taunting Eve. Badman orders the Viper gang to leave but orders Eve to stay. Eve is on the verge of leaving Sophiatown for London to start a new life with her kind manager but as they plan to escape the brutality of Apartheid South Africa in the 1950’s which threatens to strip Sophiatown of its precarious glamour and all that it represents, they inadvertently get caught up in a fateful night they will never forget with Badman and his vicious Viper gang members.

In a wonderful scene between Badman and Eve, he makes her a couple of tea and Eve replies by saying “I didn’t know gangsters make tea.”

Badman has to contest with Eve’s boxer boyfriend while Ghost makes a dangerous bid to control the Vipers. Ghost is brilliantly played by Lemogang Tsipa whose lethal addiction to the gangster life takes its toll on all those around him.

The Viper Gang

Back of the Moon is gorgeously filmed, extremely well-acted and offers a unique and often forgotten snapshot of the half demolished ghetto Sophiatown before it was obliterated from its location while the ambiance and memories of Sophiatown linger on in the collective national psyche filled with elegy and brutality.

Sophiatown in 1958 the scene of Back of the Moon

21st century audiences must view Back of the Moon as a period gangster film, with the femme fatale, the evil gangster and all those caught in between, a sort of South African retro version of director Barry Levinson’s Oscar winning 1991 American gangster film Bugsy starring Warren Beatty, Ben Kingsley and Annette Bening.

Back of the Moon gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is one of the best South African period films about Sophiatown and will surely add to South Africa’s growing and impressive film canon.

Highly recommended viewing but not for sensitive viewers due to some disturbingly violent scenes.

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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