Role reversal in

6 May 2 2003

The title of the latest SA movie to hit the screen, Hijack Stories, conjures up images of another predictably negative township story about criminals hijacking cars in the absence of anything else to do in Soweto. But there’s a lot more to the film.

Indeed, there are scary moments in this local film about a budding young actor from a wealthy suburb of Rosebank (played by Tony Kgoroge) who desperately needs to land a lead role in a movie about a Soweto gangster. In order to play the role, however, he must of necessity experience the ways of real criminals. This takes him back to his roots, Soweto, in search of his true identity.

At the risk of letting slip of the plot, there is a fascinating change of fortune in the movie when the criminal becomes an actor, and the actor becomes the criminal. But I will tell the story only thus far.

Hijack Stories is directed by Oliver Schmitz, his second movie after the hit Mapantsula, in which he also explores criminal life. In Hijack Stories, Schmitz attains the almost-impossible – making the criminal look good. There will be few in the audience who do not like Zama by the end of the movie.

Rapulana Seiphemo skilfully plays the role of Zama, whose cruel gaze is enough to scare the whole township. Surprisingly, however, Zama does not kill even a fly, at least not directly. And therein lies the strength of the film: it does not glorify criminality, nor does it attempt to moralise to the rest of the country about it.

The sterling performance by Kgoroge as Sox, the actor who goes to Soweto in search of his identity, is something to behold. And the miniature Percy Matsemela is hilarious as a “Michael Schumacher of Soweto”, to use his own words, as he races through Johannesburg away from the chasing cops, whereas Moshidi Motshegwa fits like a glove into the role of Grace, a dope-smoking, idle township girl.

Watch this movie for its excellent acting, its intensity of emotion, as well as for its wonderfully crafted script by Lesego Rampolokeng.

The movie provides a more contemporary evocation of township life, but runs the risk of reinforcing the stereotype of Soweto as a den of criminal activity. Township characters in the movie are mostly career criminals whose lives revolve around drink, sex and crime.

Released this week, the film was shot entirely on location in and around Johannesburg. It is showing now at Ster Kinekor cinemas at The Zone in Rosebank, Eastgate Mall and Southgate Mall.

Source: City of Johannesburg website