Sunday, 23 March 2014

Review: Fanie Fourie's Lobola (2013)

It’s hard to think of a South African film that doesn’t feature violence or racial conflict pulsating throughout. Fanie Fourie’s Lobola (2013) certainly includes the latter but injects humour to soften the sharp edges from its often sensitive subject matter. This comedic Romeo and Juliet focuses on the issues that arise when two members of discordant communities come together through colour lines and clashing traditions. The film has so far taken home the Audience Choice Award at the Seattle International Film Festival, the Audience Choice Award for Best Comedy Feature at the 2013 Sedona International Film Festival, and the Audience Choice Award at the 2013 Jozi Film Festival.

Eduan van Jaarsveldt stars as the hapless titular character, a misunderstood “artist” who transforms battered cars in his conservative mother’s garage. He lives in the shadow of his successful, yet exceedingly dim pop-star brother and his ambition in life is dismissed by all and sundry. That is, until Dinky Mugubane (Zeth Dlomo) walks into his life and stumbles unknowingly into a bet bestowed on Fanie to find a date for his brother’s imminent wedding. After initially turning him down, Dinky takes pity on Fanie and the pair come to an agreement that sees them both getting much more than they initially bargained for.

Fanie Fourie’s Lobola hits the ground running with the seemingly simple premise of an Afrikaans man and a non-traditional Zulu woman falling in love despite the racial barriers planted within their respective communities. There is a strong central “love will conquer all” thread running throughout and director, Henk Pretorious points the moral compass firmly towards a new, optimistic South Africa and with this goal firmly in sight, the more pressing matters are able to be addressed without blemishing the vibrant, yet gentle tone of the picture.

As a means of maintaining a concise narrative, key characters act as the sole embodiment of racist cliches. Fanie’s conservative mother reflects the elitist and snobbish white racist. His brother, Sarel (Chris Chameleon) is the shockingly selfish singer who pays to have Dinky’s dark pixel removed from his wedding photographs. Fanie’s uncle (Richard van der Westhuzien) illustrates the wise-cracking casual racist, whilst the black gardener (Yule Masiteng) hits back with “white-jokes”. Dinky’s dad wants his daughter to keep within the community by pairing her off with a wealthy local man, who arrogantly pre-pays his lobola in the form of a blank cheque. As characters and their opinions clash, each conflicting argument compliments the other, thus allowing the film to maintain an equal balance in cultural disregard. Luckily Fanie Fourie’s Lobola has two marvellously ambitious protagonists who practically inform and educate their objectors as they pursue their dream.

The sizzling chemistry between the pair is captivating. Zethu Dlomo shines in her role as Dinky, stealing every scene and proving that she has the makings of an international star. Eduan van Jaarsveldt is perfectly cast and dually captures the essence of the average guy and of everyone who ever had a dream. Together, the pair are magic. It’s their shared understanding of one another’s ambitions and their determination that makes them so enjoyable to watch. Here is a genuinely funny and compassionate romantic comedy that proudly celebrates its country’s idiosyncratic heritage. Director, Pretorious carefully combines these elements to create a hilarious, enchanting and uplifting film with a vital and powerful message at the heart. Fanie Fourie’s Lobola is a truly absorbing experience that will bring people together, no matter who they are or where they’re from.

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