AFRICAN GOTHIC : REVIEW
By: Tony Manyangadze
African Gothic, a feature film which premiered at this year’s Durban International Film Festival is unique in many aspects. Directed by Gabriella Bologna and starring South African born Damon Shalit and Chella Ferrow. The two are supported by a British actor, Jonny Coyne and Connie Jackson, an American.
It is from a screen play by the late South African, Reza de Wet that the film is derived from. The setting goes back to the dark days of apartheid; in a farm somewhere in the Free State a strange boer couple, their two children and a housekeeper subsisted.
Both parents are extremely abusive mostly to their children, and also to the house keeper. It is because of the physical and emotional abuse that the three victims grew a common affection for each other. Perhaps this affection grew even far more between the two siblings that it even turned sexual.
Some would say it’s a taboo or even disgusting, but in that lonely place and after brutally murdering their abusive parents, the two probably felt like they only have each other. After spending years keeping their dark secret, it’s the arrival of a lawyer, Mr Grove (played by Jonny Coyne) that the three felt threatened.
The majority of this film was however not shot in South Africa but in the United States of America. According to Damon Shalit, who also produced the screen play, it was more from a logistical point of view that this decision was made. He wished for the production to be purely South African but unfortunately his contact base is much broader in the USA. Some scenes were also shot here in South Africa.
The cinematography of this production is another aspect that makes it unique. It’s shots are tightly edited showing emotions and passion especially between the siblings. The director, Gabriella Bologna, said he had to bend the rules with this production. The words ‘cut’ and ‘action’ were rarely used during shooting, instead he let the cameras roll and had to whisper in the actors’ ears. According to him, this enabled him to capture the raw emotions and gestures.
If you are a lover of plays and dying to see theatre production on a new scale, then this is a must see. It should be known beforehand that you have to be open-minded too and see beyond what’s on the big screen but try to put yourself in a similar situation. Some scenes are inappropriate for children, so if you are thinking of taking one to this screening, you need to reconsider.