OK, so one thing I hate (albeit marginally) more than Nicholas Cage is the typical South African “tell-not-show” movie that wags a P.W-esque finger at the audience as it lectures us about the ills of Apartheid. It’s lazy, simplistic filmmaking and it’s rubbish to watch. If I wanted Adult Education, I’d take night classes; when I see a movie, I want to be engaged, challenged and entertained. Which brings me to Jerusalema.
Shortly after the end of Apartheid, Soweto schoolboy Lucky Kunene (the excellent Rapulana Seiphemo) sadly acknowledges that the opportunities promised by the end of white domination are not going to simply materialise. Initially he falls in with a car-jacking syndicate but when things get a tad violent, he flees to Johannesburg and the inner city slum of Hillbrow. There he begins to pull off his biggest con yet – he hijacks a building. Yes, you read that right: a building. And it’s all based on a true story.
Jerusalema is a slick, funky tale, populated by well acted, three dimensional characters (mostly) and propelled by a rollicking South African sound track. The wreckage of the Apartheid system is clear for all to see, but this story is not ABOUT apartheid per se, and therefore it shows it rather than tells it. And it’s also why it rises above a lot of the other dross you might have seen to date.
Johannesburg looks great on film too, so kudos to the Gauteng Film Commission for supporting the marketing effort of the film. Although it doesn’t paint a particularly pleasant portrait of life in the City of Gold, Jerusalema compellingly reflects its vibrancy, dynamism and opportunity.