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Movie Review: The Jakes Are Missing

The Jakes Are Missing isn't trying to reinvent the wheel, it's trying to be a crime comedy caper with a South African flavour and Hollywood values. We're introduced to the Jakes, a South African family with more than one parallel to the Banks family of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Their son is neither Carlton nor Will, but manages to stumble his way into a crime scene, before necessitating their enrollment in a witness protection programme.

The picturesque town of Clarens becomes the backdrop for this urban-to-rural escapade. The Jakes family have to integrate themselves into a homespun culture, where the local minister takes people in as part of the witness protection, and the hair salon is where you can catch up on the latest gossip. The Jakes Are Missing is part fish-out-of-water comedy and part crime caper as an affluent family try to forget about the big city and fit in with small town life as a gang of criminals try to track them down. While not nearly as violent, it has similarities with The Family, and elements from For Richer or Poorer.

The Jakes Are Missing stars Mampho Brescia, Pope Jerrod and Mpho Sebeng as Janice, Donald and young Simon. Brescia is perfectly cast as a go-getting lawyer and part- time Mom struggling to balance her priorities. She has the attitude, beauty and charm to keep us guessing as we try to figure her out. Jerrod is Mr. Smooth, a kind, smart and attractive man trying to save his marriage and keep his son in check. Sebeng is an insightful teenager and music geek, enjoying the time out and trying to get close to the minister's daughter and high school sweetheart.

It's a fun, lightweight film with enough bounce to keep you watching. You may recognise Jody Abrahams, Darlington Michaels, Craig Palm and Nomzamo Mbatha. While types, the characters have enough spunk and the performances enough charm to amuse. The production has a sleek look-and-feel and the film-makers have elevated the quality of the film with aerial photography, choice locations and fluid cinematography.

The Jakes Are Missing Movie Review

"Witness protection is redundant in South Africa."

Unfortunately, The Jakes Are Missing is having a genre identity crisis. Punted as a romance, a drama and all-of-the-above... the formulaic witness protection plot would suggest comedy. While it has an amusing tone, it never really threatens to spill into the aisles. The situational comedy isn't leveraged to its full potential and the wishy-washy plotting leaves things in laughter limbo. You can handle predictable if it's laugh-out-loud funny and entertaining, but The Jakes Are Missing is bland and never rises to this level.

The characters are interesting enough, but the story lacks cohesion and clarity, almost moving by association. It makes for passable entertainment as we're settling into the new town and coasting on the novelty of fresh characters, but the wheels start to fall off as soon as the film realises it needs an ending. A sweet local music competition, a major fumble from the criminals, a bit of love and cue the credits.

While it works smoothly from cast to crew, it just feels like the script needed more oomph. The tension is an afterthought, the comedy isn't exploited and while almost touching, the film hasn't earned our empathy diminishing the overall entertainment value. The Jakes Are Missing has a dull familiarity and an inherent laziness to it, rolling on without anyone really wanting to own it.

The bottom line: Half-baked

Talking Movies with Spling - Dis ek Anna, Burnt and You're Not You

Spling reviews Dis ek, Anna, Burnt and You're Not You as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

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Movie Review: Dis ek, Anna

A woman is raped every 26 seconds in South Africa. That statistic doesn't carry enough weight... even if you get Charlize Theron to follow it up with "Real Men Don't Rape". This isn't surprising when you consider we're living in a culture, where sexual harassment and coercion are viewed as normal male behaviour. In South Africa, the rate of sexual violence is among the highest in the world with roughly 500,000 rape cases taking place annually. It's estimated that over 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime and only 1 in 9 rapes are reported.*

South Africa has some of the highest incidences of child and infant rape in the world. A survey among 1,500 school children in Johannesburg, revealed that a quarter of the boys thought that "jackrolling", or gang rape, was fun. We're credited with the invention of at least two controversial anti-rape devices and even ourPresident has been charged with rape. Once dubbed "the rape capital of the world", it seems as though little is being done to expose, prevent or address this widespread problem, an endemic many would believe is prolific enough for our government to declare a state of emergency.*

It seems beyond our control, like we're helpless to a national emergency that seems too intimate to discuss and too big to solve. Thankfully, the medium of film is here to help and educate, which makes movies like Thina Sobabili and Dis ek, Anna so critical in shaping the national mindset and giving us insight into the affects of rape on its victims and the consequences of these actions on the perpetrators. Dis ek, Anna is a powerful and provocative drama that seeks to bring the issue to light by telling the personal story of Anna, a victim of domestic sexual abuse, against the backdrop of a country in crisis.

Sara Blecher's film is beautifully composed, drawing comparisons with Scandanavian films like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy in terms of its tone, lead, filmic quality and the grisly circumstances she finds herself in. Blecher directed the bubbly yet thought-provoking and empowering Ayanda, another female-centric film on the other side of the spectrum, showing her range and determination to bring audiences entertainment that matters. She's carefully balanced both films, driving a message without becoming too preachy, whilst nurturing her audience with compelling and vivid storytelling.

Dis ek, Anna's message borders on propaganda in terms of vigilantism as we're faced with one situation involving a family scandal and another dealing with a community. While you may not agree with this sentiment, it shows an underlying frustration with the justice system and lack of faith in criminal proceedings and due process. We've seen many high profile criminal court cases end unsatisfactorily and justice seems to be about as unpredictable as pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. Corruption and a lack of accountability have eroded the system... no wonder we're fed up and want to take matters into our own hands. While drastic, it's this edgy challenge that spurs on the characters and creates tension around the muddied morality.

Dis ek, Anna Movie Review


Tertius Kapp's screenplay is somewhat controversial, but it's the kind of shake up that we need to provoke thought, stir up discussion and hopefully take action. It may be his first feature film credit as screenwriter, but the author has a knack for drama, having won the Herzog Prize for his dramasĀ Rooiland and Oorsee earlier this year. His screenplay has emotional dexterity, keen insights and juggles a range of carefully drawn characters between the past and present as we focus on the foreground without losing sight of the jagged landscape.

The performances drive this film home with a seemingly limitless and solid ensemble of South African actors keeping the tug-o-war rope taut. Charlene Bruwer carries the pent-up heartache and fragility you'd expect from a younger Jodie Foster as Anna Bruwer, counterbalanced by a naive and heart-on-her-sleeve performance from Izel Bezuidenhout as a younger Anna. Marius Weyers is a boon, tenacious and spirited as Windhond Weber. Morne Visser's quite monstrous as the shadowy Danie du Toit, delivering a brave and haunting career-defining performance. Nicola Hanekom is sublime as Johanna du Toit, carrying the unspoken violence and helplessness of a bystander too afraid to speak out. Eduan van Jaarsveldt's sensitive performance as Hendrik Bruwer is also noteworthy and affecting.

The cinematography blends the worlds quite beautifully and effortlessly as we move from one age to another and maintain an intense, intimate and almost sinister tone, using off-camera moments quite masterfully. The soundtrack carries this agenda with some sharp subtextual audio interplay.

This emotional gravity echoes the same intensity of films from Danish director Susanne Bier, whose focus on character and a mounting tension around their circumstances permeates. Dis ek, Anna makes for compelling and gripping viewing... part heartfelt court room drama, part chilling, emotionally devastating crime thriller. There are some transitions that jar, one welcome scene intended for levity that seems a bit out of place and the fear of the story becoming unwieldy, but these minor flaws are a footnote to a much broader, impressive film at play.

Dis ek, Anna is an edgy, emotional, powerful, provocative and timely film... and the best South African drama since Life, Above All. Blecher commands a weighty, well-balanced and well-acted film that will disturb, emote and educate. It's a beautifully composed, subtle and sensitive crime drama thriller that captures fragments of life and laces them together to create haunting, compelling and world-class entertainment with purpose... making it a finely-crafted and breathtaking must-see.

The bottom line: Immense

*Statistics sourced from this Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_violence_in_South_Africa
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