FILM REVIEW: Of Good Report

Jahmil XT Qubeka's film is a clever and darkly comic take on the serial killer origin genre rather than a comment on sugar daddies or social realities

Jahmil XT Qubeka’s film is a clever and darkly comic take on the serial killer origin genre rather than a comment on sugar daddies or social realities

While it will be hard for many to forget about words like “banned” and the debate over what constitutes child pornography, Jahmil XT Qubeka’s film is best viewed as a daring, refreshing, clever and darkly comic take on the serial killer origin genre rather than a comment on sugar daddies or social realities.

Made on a shoestring, shot in black and white, with excellent performances from its two leads and a perfectly unnerving score by Philip Miller, this is a film that continually surprises and surpasses expectations.

If it says anything about South Africa, it says most about the way in which the gatekeepers of the local film industry have forgotten the magical elements of the art of filmmaking that have kept us enthralled for more than a century.

These gatekeepers seem to be in favour of financial returns and a misguided vision that they are in the business of nation building and the enforcement of morality.

Of Good Report is a unique take on life in the margins of post-apartheid South Africa. With an anarchic energy, Qubeka creates an intensely moody portrayal of the psychological breakdown of quiet teacher Parker Sithole (Mothusi Magano).

After serving in the SADF, Sithole finds himself teaching English at a rural school where he becomes involved with a beautiful, seductive, underage pupil, Nolitha (Petronella Tshuma).

It’s a relationship which will lead him on the road to obsession with tragic results. Jumping liberally from Sithole’s past to present, the film creates a convincing and compelling picture of the worldview of a tortured man whose mute exterior belies the torrid violence of his inner thoughts.

Credit goes to the gripping and silent performance of Magano, who brings an intensity to Parker which draws the audience in from the start. He is complemented by a brave and understated performance from Tshuma and strong support from the rest of the cast, while the beautiful cinematography of Jonathan Kovel wraps up the whole package in aptly noirish shadows of psychological ambiguity.

Yes, there is some brief nudity, there are some uncomfortable and violent scenes, but this is not shock for the sake of shock and is far less horrific or explicit than many of the films from the US or Europe that local audiences have been permitted to see.

Rather it’s one of the most intriguing, surprising and intelligent pieces of cinema to come out of South Africa in decades. Of Good Report shines a ray of hopeful light for filmmakers who feel trapped by the belief that the only way to make films is to conform to the standards and interference of those who hold the purse strings. It is also a reminder that the best people to decide what we should be allowed to see are ourselves.

Director: Jahmil XT Qubeka

Cast: Mothusi Magano, Petronella Tshuma, Tshamano Sebe, Lee-Ann Van Rooi, Tina Jaxa