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Movie Review: Ayanda

Ayanda is a fresh coming-of-age romance drama set in the suburb of Yeoville in Johannesburg, South Africa. Yeoville's identity has evolved over the years, becoming "Afropolitan", a melting pot for Africa and now a stylistic theme for Ayanda, as we embrace a brave, hip and vibrant community culture.

The neighbourhood's diversity, energy and swagger is translated into Ayanda, originally titled Ayanda and the Mechanic, as we encounter a young woman desperately trying to fuse her talent and resources to rescue her late father's auto mechanic repair shop.

Director, Sara Blecher, brought us the surf movie, Otelo Burning, in 2011 and has racked up two more directorial credits for Dis ek, Anna and Ayanda in 2015. She's crafted another winner in Ayanda, drawing solid performances from her ensemble, setting them against a universal story about letting go and encapsulating the ambient flow of life in the street savvy, Yeoville.

This romance drama has a strong leading lady and title character in Fulu Moguvhani, who delivers a charming and captivating performance. Her hairstyles, wardrobe and stubborn optimism keeps the upbeat, urban chic tone intact, despite getting greasy with overalls, and she represents a strong, determined woman with great self-belief. You admire her for daring to dream, but the character's self-interest does become a little cloying.

Moguvhani is supported by Nthathi Moshesh as her mother, Dorothy and Kenneth Nkosi as her "godfather" Zama. These experienced actors add weight and substance to the cast by bringing two fine performances to the mix. Ayanda's "Mechanic", David, is played by O.C. Ukeje, whose gentle and unassuming performance shines through as a romantic interest and key to her dreams, while Thomas Gumede keeps the goo in check with a fun and spirited turn.

Ayanda Movie Review

"Denise Cosby? You ain't seen nothing yet..."

Ayanda deals with a born-free South African woman intent on setting the world on fire with her dreams, while cherishing memories of her father. It's a touching story of swimming upstream, challenging the system and coping with grief as Ayanda tries to keep her father's legacy alive. The drama is layered with themes including: forgiveness, heritage and unity as Ayanda struggles to part with mementos and feels the undertow of her family's history. You could even say it's an allegory for the state of the New South Africa.

Ayanda's visuals bristle with life from the sleek cinematography to the range of stylistic choices from wardrobe to production values, making it a decadent and colourful film that brims with vitality. While the car modification romance drama and local music made Fanie Fourie's Lobola, it doesn't hurt to see it again with a more classical African slant. Curious animated sequences lace the African story together with imaginative interchanges, while a roving documentary film-maker gives us humorous and heartwarming insights into the characters and extras.

Ayanda keeps our eyes transfixed, but the storytelling does get bogged down by some scenes that verge precariously close on TV melodrama. While our lead's motivations are noble, she seems emotionally-stunted and this translates into a narcissistic agenda. It may be more reflective of the Facebook generation than most would admit, but gives us mixed feelings about the character at crucial turns.

The end result is enjoyable, emotionally connective and visually stimulating as we ingratiate ourselves in a South African romance drama with surprising depth. The performances are mostly charming, the hip Afrocentric culture is refreshing and the film fires on all cylinders, making it a world-class vehicle, in spite of one or two rust spots.

The bottom line: Entertaining