"I came out feeling like I'd watched a great film that happened to be in South Africa..."
I’m really not sure how I got invited, but I somehow got to enjoy the festivities of the Cape Winelands Film Festival's opening night. I got to wear a suit, which almost never happens. The Cape Town film youth came out in numbers and pulled no punches with the formal dress code, it was quite a sight.
Aside from some entertaining accidental racism (where an older guest handed my friend's boyfriend his coat thinking he was an usher) the real star was the premiere of the film Lucky. It’s an absolutely charming local film that only resembles Central Station if you look at it from, well, any angle. I point out its similarities to that film not to detract from it, but rather as high praise. A friend of mine at the premiere mentioned how much it felt like Central Station and once seen, it couldn’t be unseen.
Lucky tells the story of an orphan who heads to the city in a noble attempt to go to school and ends up with an angry old racist Indian woman, which is education in its own right I guess.
Much of the film revolves around the breakdown in communication between the boy and the old woman, and it’s in these moments that Lucky really shines. The charisma and subtly exhibited by both the leads is admirable and carries the film through its most formulaic sections. With these two on screen the film has a very natural flow. Unfortunately it does suffer from a few pacing issues. There are sections where you feel like you are approaching the films conclusion when it's still a good while off. Thankfully, the characters are easy to invest in and you quickly forget the feeling when you realise you aren’t done with them yet.
The best part of the film for me as a South African (I rarely call myself that) is the use of the setting. I touched on this in my ramblings about Safe House, but that was more about foreigners using African settings. In the case of local film there is a different problem, especially in South Africa. Filmmakers and script writers in this country seem to think that there film's identity is defined by being a ‘South African’ film. Very few films can actually get away with the country being their identity and their voice. A notable success would be the stellar District 9. Thankfully Lucky stands on its own legs, the film doesn’t pander to its setting and it’s stronger for it. They never even bother to say the name of the city. I came out feeling like I'd watched a great film that happened to be in South Africa rather than a South African film. Believe me when I say there is a big difference.