Top 10 South African Films Of 2016

Top 10 South African Films Of 2016

By Daniel Dercksen

Local has indeed been lekker in 2016, with more than 30 films released in South Africa. Here are the films that had a visceral and emotional impact, allowing us to see the world through home-grown eyes.

Since he launched The Writing Studio 19 years ago Daniel Dercksen has been actively involved in the teaching of storytellers and the development of screenplays, novels and plays, working passionately with emerging writers and storymakers on their respective stories. He has been a freelance film and theatre journalist for 30 Years, writing regular features, interviews and reviews for magazines and newspapers, as well as the website of The Writing Studio. He also received the number one spot for most popular lifestyle contributor for 2012,  2014 and 2015 on and second most popular contributor in 2016.

My fathers war 2

Edwin van der Walt in My Father’s War

1. MY FATHER’S WAR This bilingual (Afrikaans/English) drama focuses on the heartbreaking broken relationship between a father and his rebellious teenage son with outstanding performances by Edwin van der Walt as a conflicted young man who is constantly at was with his father, a veteran of the Angola border war, with an equally powerhouse performance by Stian Bam as a man torn between a past that shattered his life, and a future that holds little promise. Erica Wessels is also superb  as the wife who is caught in the middle of their epic battle. The men don’t see eye to eye on anything, and there seems to be no hope for reconciliation between them.

2. MODDER EN BLOED  In this emotional journey into the heart and soul of a war that divided a nation, reconciled revenge forces underdogs to triumph in the spirit of togetherness.It’s a poignant story of man versus himself when incarcerated with other Boer prisoners-of-war on the island of St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean, but also the story of Afrikaner men tortured emotionally and physically by a monstrous British tyrant during the Anglo Boer War of 1899-1902, as well as the story of a British woman who redeems herself through the horrors she witnesses.

3. FREE STATE This heartbreaking romance is set in 1979 and tells the story of a forbidden love affair between Jeanette – a white Afrikaans girl – and Ravi – an Indian man.  The film is written and directed by multi-award winning filmmaker Sallas de Jager. “The film explores the predicament of a parent and child relationship within three families when they are confronted by the ripple effect of the forbidden love affair between Ravi and Jeanette.  The parents are confronted by the need of a parent for your child to find true happiness versus the need for your child to uphold the way of life taught to him/her from childhood in order to fit into a community as an adult.

4. ‘N PAWPAW VIR MY DARLING Family. You want to live without them, but can’t survive without them. That’s the essence of Koos Roets‘ quirky satire ‘n Paw Paw Vir My Darling, which takes us on a humorous and heartfelt journey into the hearts and souls of a needy Afrikaner family living in the fictional Damnville in 2003.Based on an idea which Roets skilfully adapted from Jeanne Goosen bestseller that offered  an intelligent and her sharp observation and understanding of the pshyce of characters and their reactions to the social, cultural and political mileu in which they find themselves, the film adaptation aptly celebrates the core of Goosen’s work. Although at heart it’s a brilliant social satire in the tradition of Siener in die Suburbs and Triomf, it’s equally a women’s film that acutely addresses issues of woman finding their worth in work and home, but also a human drama about a family that tries to unite dramatically and comically, and also addresses serious issues like cancer with dark overtones.

5. DIE ONTWAKING  A grisly, mesmerising thriller that investigates the mind and motivations of an acutely intelligent serial killer, and marks the directorial debut of acclaimed production designer Johnny Breedt (Paljas, Hotel Rwanda, A Long Walk to Freedom). Hailed as a game-changer for South African film, Die Ontwaking is based on the first book of the ‘Abel’ trilogy, Abel se Ontwaking (translated into English as The Skin Collector), by well-known crime writer Chris Karsten. Says Breedt: “I really wanted to be challenged as a film maker and wanted to do the same with my audience, take them to a place where they do not necessarily want to go.”

6. NOEM MY SKOLLIE If you are looking for a gritty and hardcore prison drama, Noem My Skollie features Dann Jaques Mouton (last seen in Abraham) delivering a touching performance as a man who grows up on the impoverished ganglands of Cape Flats in the 1960s. It tells the tragic story of four teenagers, AB (Austin Rose) and his three best friends Gimba (Ethan Patton), Gif (Joshua Vraagom) and Shorty (Valentino de Klerk), and their vicious journey into adulthood. It’s the autobiographical story of screenwriter John W. Fredericks who takes us into the hardship of prison life, but also the story of a man who find life in a hellish existence.

7. SY KLINK SOOS LENTE is a refreshing revival of the Afrikaans Romantic Comedy genre, with Corné van Rooyen’s sensitive directing style and Stiaan Smith’s fresh script create a wonderful background for Amalia Uys and Smith’s gripping performances and pulling out all the emotional stops.  It’s a delightful tale of a mechanic (Smith) who falls in love with a beautiful and brainy redhead (Uys) who is the daughter of his boss at a car dealership in Johannesburg. The chemistry between Smith and Uys is pure magic and when the sparks begin to fly, the mechanic spins a white lie and tells her he’s the lead singer in a band.


WONDER BOY FOR PRESIDENT Writer-director John Barker turned politics inside out and upside down with his biting independent mockumentary.  Funnyman Kagiso Lediga steps into the shoes of Wonder Boy,  a charismatic and authoritative young man from the Eastern Cape, who is coerced into running for president by two dubious and corrupt characters played by Ntosh Madlingozi and Tony Miyambo. Their aim is to mould him into a great politician and manufacture his downfall at the right time, for the right price. It is a political satire that delves into political dynamics and challenges that arise.

9. DIS KOUE KOS, SKAT A charming local film that features Anna-Mart van der Merwe in top form as a renowned food writer  Clara, who discovers that her husband is cheating on her with one of her best friends and moves to Cape Town with her two kids where she rediscovers her true nature, and gloriously uncovers the allure of food in romance! Clara undergoes this journey not only of healing, but of rediscovering her passions in life, all the while plotting her revenge on her ex husband and his new, much younger wife. Deon Lotz is equally brilliant as the cheating husband with Frank Opperman ideally cast as a restaurant owner and chef who has a peculiar food fetish. Elzabe Zietsman is also fantastic as the best friend and matchmaker who adds to the humour in the story of love lost, and ultimately found in the strangest of places.

10. NOMA Challenging conventional filmmaking, Pablo Pinedo is very much an auteur when it comes to his well-researched and structured Noma, using his skills as producer, writer, director and cinematographer to create an impressionistic documentary that is different from traditional filmmaking. Noma tells the story of Nomaliphathwe Gwele, a 25 year old single mother of two, who lives in a backyard in a rented shack, and wants to improve her life. To do that she decides to join a land occupation action to build her own shack in the new settlement but risking violent evictions.

Other Noteworthy Releases

shepherdsSHEPHERDS AND BUTCHERS The true account of the legal process of capital punishment, and the inhumane treatment of prisoners on death row, which took place during the apartheid era in South Africa.“It’s a film about young people taken by a society, taught how to kill and then left to their own devices,” says director Oliver Schmitz, “it’s very much about apartheid but equally it could be anywhere in the world, where a kid in a situation of war who is given a gun, is told to shoot someone, and must then go home and be normal. It doesn’t work.”

safebetSAFE BET Writer-director Bonginhlanhla Ncube (better known as Mr. B) and screenwriter Carl Roddam have joined forces for Safe Bet, a film that was officially selected in 6 festivals and traveled to entertain audiences in the US and Europe 4 months after completion. In Safe Bet, Frank (Wandile Molebatsi)’s lifelong friend Khaya (Godfrey Thobejane) turns up with another money-making scheme, Frank is tempted into throwing in the entire boss’s money into a fixed boxing match.

Vir Altyd kiss

VIR ALTYD An honest and sincere journey into the hearts and souls of two young lovers on the rollercoaster of love and life, it’s a heartfelt film about love and how Cupid’s arrows pierces the hearts of those who want to love but are hopelessly lost on their search for meaning and understanding,  and revered conquerors of love celebrating its joy and anguish.

Botha and Roberts wrote and co-produced Vir Altyd with Danie Bester, whose Johannesburg-based company, The Film Factory produced three of the top six highest grossing Afrikaans feature films at the South African box office: the very successful teen comedy trilogy Bakgat!, Bakgat! 2 and Bakgat! 3; box office hits Ballade vir ’n Enkeling, Wolwedans in die Skemer, Hoofmeisie and Pad na Jou Hart; as well as the critically acclaimed Roepman and Verraaiers.

Sink websiteSINK is a contemporary drama written and directed by  Brett Michael Innes that poignantly explores the themes of entrapment, loss and forgiveness against the backdrop of the current South African class structure and the experience of foreign nationals in the country. It tells the compelling story three people trying to deal with a tragic situation: Rachel (Shoki Mokgapa), is a mother trying to come to terms with the loss of her child and the bitterness that she feels towards the people responsible; Michelle (Anel Alexander), a woman trying to deal with the arrival of her own child and the guilt that she feels towards her involvement in the death of another’s; and Chris (Jacques Bessenger), a man trying to juggle both of the above as well as a relationship with a co-worker that threatens his marriage.

AlisonALISON A story of monsters, miracles  and hope. Director-writer-producer Uga Carlini, changed lives in a profound way with the poignant documentary Alison, which  won the Best Documentary at the Asia Pacific International Film Festival, after selling out at the Encounters International Film Festival, and wowing crowds at its international premiere at Dances with Films Festival in Los Angeles. After recently being nominated for Best Documentary at this year’s Silwerskermfees 2016, the hybrid film, Alison the movie was bestowed the top honour this past weekend of International Humanitarian Platinum Award Winner for Best Documantary at this year’s World Humanitarian Film Awards. Translated into 7 languages and a perennial on Penguin’s best seller list since 1998, the documentary is based on the bestseller that tells the harrowing story of Alison Botha, who was raped, stabbed and disemboweled – and survived to rebuild her life as an inspirational speaker. Carlini’s hybrid feature documentary on Alison Botha is a deeply personal and emotional story of triumph and survival. Using a creative and innovative fairytale aesthetic, Carlini’s film is a poetic and insightful exploration of trauma and overcoming.

happiness-is-a-four-letter-word-cast-khanyi-mbau-mmabatho-montsho-and-renate-stuurmanHAPPINESS IS A FOUR LETTER WORD A heart-warming romance that explores the lives of three best friends – Nandi, Zaza and Princess – living the good life in the vibrant city of  Johannesburg. Nandi (Mmabatho Montsho) who has just been made partner at her law firm is engaged to emerging entrepreneur Thomas. Zaza (Khanyi Mbau) is a trophy wife to the wealthy and successful property developer Bheki. Princess (Renate Stuurman)  is the celebrated owner of one of the trendiest art galleries in town, and is living with her sexy and talented boyfriend Leo. But things aren’t what they seem!