Cape Flats gang film an Oscar contender

fourcornersinner A Cape ganglands coming-of-age thriller ‘Four Corners’ is being touted as a serious contender in the best foreign language category for the 2014 Oscars.
(Image: Vimeo)

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Melissa Jane Cook

A Cape ganglands coming-of-age thriller ‘Four Corners’ is being touted as a serious contender in the best foreign language category for the 2014 Oscars.

Directed by Ian Gabriel, the film has been selected as the official South African submission at the 86th Academy Awards.

Threading together universal themes of love, loss, kinship, betrayal and redemption, Gabriel acutely reveals the gritty realities of a vicious gangland subculture. Harvesting depravation and violence, at the pinnacle of the narrative is a captivating message of inspiration and hope.

The cast of Four Rooms is an ensemble of talent and combines veterans including Lindiwe Matshikiza (Zindzi Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), and many actors and bit players drawn from a pool of real people and actors, schools and chess clubs, all familiar with life on the Flats in the various gang-associated areas where filming took place.

With the exception of the lead supporting actor Farakhan ( Brendon Daniels) and the lead actor Ricardo ( Jezriel Skei ) all the prison cast (youths and adults) were cast either from Victory Outreach, an outreach rehabilitative programme for ex -gang and drug users, and the Ottery Reformatory where actual juvenile offenders appeared in the juvenile quad scene.

Filmed over five short weeks the film centres on a 13-year-old chess prodigy who’s drawn into Cape Town’s notorious child-gang culture. His absent father, recently released from prison, tries to break the pattern of violence and keep his son away from the ‘Four Corners’.

Four lives change forever as the destinies of a reformed prison ‘general,’ a local cop, a charismatic gang leader and a surgeon back from London intersect with Ricardo.

“Four corners, four lives and sounding boards influencing one boy’s life, reflecting the Four Corners of a chessboard and the Four Corners of a prison cell (literally ‘Vier Hoeke’ in Sabela prison slang – the secret language of the prison Number Gangs); each of these simple stories connected with the next to make up the Four Corners in the chessboard of Ricardo’s life,” says director Ian Gabriel on the Four Corners movie website.

South Africa’s Cape Flats, located just outside Cape Town, an area of brutality and struggle. A society that spawned gangs and the gangs’ violent retaliation within it. For generations this hostile environment has been plagued by issues of poverty, depravation and disorder.

Gabriel states on the website: “The world of the Cape Flats is so unique and such a different world that I knew the more we told the more we would need to tell. It wasn’t only with the actors that I wanted to achieve the sense of being ‘in the moment’ – I wanted that from the audience as well if that was possible, so that when finally there is a chase or there is a gun fight, which are staples of the gangster film genre, I wanted people to really feel and be in those moments and experience them, just as the community of families in the Cape Flats experience gangster turf outbursts from day to day on the streets, school-fields, playgrounds and block yards which are the chosen ‘battlegrounds.'”

According to the Twitchfilm.com website, the Cape Flats district of Mitchells Plain has the highest rates of murder, violence and property crime in the nation by a large margin, with neighbouring districts having what are described as ‘abnormally high’ murder rates for more than a decade.

Cape Town is home to South Africa’s toughest maximum security prison – Pollsmoor, so this space makes for a compelling setting for Gabriel’s Four Corners.

This is the first film to delve into the hundred year-old war between South Africa’s Numbers Gangs, the 26s and the 28s. It blends Sabela, Tsotsi taal (slang originally used by criminals), Cape Afrikaans and English.

In an article titled South Africa Comes of Age, the pre-eminent industry trade publication, The Hollywood Reporter, enthused about “the high hopes for the child gang thriller Four Corners, the country’s contender in the foreign language Oscar race”.

Gavin Hood, director of the 2006 Academy Award winning South African film Tsotsi introduced Four Corners at a VIP screening on the 24 November in Beverly Hills in Los Angeles in the United States. He said: “Watching your beautifully made, heartfelt film brought tears to my eyes. Tears of sadness, and of pride.”

Hood specifically acknowledged the outstanding performances of undiscovered, bright new talent alongside more seasoned actors. “This is a story about a group of young people, many of whom have never acted before, seeing their community on screen for the first time, making a searingly honest piece of art.”

Giant Films’ Cindy Gabriel and Moonlighting Films’ Genevieve Hofmeyr produced the independent and South African-financed Four Corners – which is director Ian Gabriel’s second feature film, following the highly acclaimed Forgiveness.

Producer, Genevieve Hofmeyr, said that they were able to produce the picture – which was in development for four years – with the assistance of the National Film and Video Foundation and the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa. The Little Film Company is handling international sales.

The movie releases on 7 February 2014 in South Africa through Indigenous Film Distribution.

“It’s a great privilege for us to be representing such a prestigious film,” says Helen Kuun, CEO of Indigenous Film Distribution. “As it is South Africa’s official submission for the Oscars, we are all keen to see how the world responds. It’s an ambitious film that delves deep into the human story behind the longstanding gang warfare that has a daily impact on the lives of people living on the Flats.”

The soundtrack for Four Corners is composed by South African composer Markus Wormstorm. The film uses ‘found’ and original South African music by musicians as diverse as Felix laBand, Khuli Chana, Hemelbesem, Rattex, Jits Vinger, Cream, Kyle Shepherd and Isaac Mutant.

“I hope to leave the audience with an experience that will stay with them after they leave the cinema. If they remember that this special world of the Cape Flats exists and is not only more dangerous, but also much richer than they knew, that will be very satisfying for us as film makers and for the communities and families we worked with,” concludes Gabriel.