South African classic The Suit made into a short film

18 May 2016

The short film version of Can Themba’s classic South African story, The Suit, has been written for screen and directed by fledgling filmmaker Jarryd Coetsee. The film stars Atandwa Kani, son of South African acting legend John Kani, in the lead role of Philemon.

The story, set in 1950s apartheid South Africa, deals with the consequences of an extramarital affair gone wrong, but the metaphor acts as a more substantial comment on the brutal effects of the forced removals of the time. The story was banned by the National Party government when it was first published, but has since become a standard in high school set work curriculums; it has also been adapted for stage.

Themba was a journalist for Drum magazine and an apartheid dissident. He died in exile in 1968.

About his debut film, Coetsee, who first read the novel as a set work at school, told the South African Sunday Times newspaper that the story was still important. Its themes of personal space and humiliation offered a more emotional understanding today of the profound trauma experienced by millions of South Africans during apartheid.

In the story, Philemon discovers a suit left by the lover of his wife, Matilda. He proceeds to use the suit to torment and humiliate her.

“Oppression is cyclical and it affects personal relationships in a destructive way,” said Coetsee. “I can think of no time in our history when it has been more urgent to heed Themba’s cautionary tale because we are now at great risk of oppressive forces derailing our progress.”

Watch the trailer below

The Suit also stars Phuti Nakene as Matilda and John Kani in a small, supporting role.

The film has been selected for the Zanzibar and Durban film festivals, with Coetsee and Kani hoping that word of mouth and some critical success might lead to it being shown at other international short film festivals over the next year.

While it might only be in short-film format, no expense has been spared in recreating the era, offering a visual quality worthy of any feature-length production, thanks to Coetsee and his team at Mandala Films.

He hopes that success for The Suit will spur on more short film narratives that will celebrate local stories, both old and new.

Source: Times Live