Hijack Stories


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

If this was a US ghetto movie, it would make no waves. Because it is set in post-apartheid South Africa, it has socio-political relevance, even sex appeal.

Don't be misled. Highjack Stories IS a ghetto movie. Its documentary import feels diminished by a conventional plotline, with a tricksy Hollywood denouement.

Sox (Tony Kgoroge) is an actor who dries at an audition because he cannot relate to the character of a township gangster. Although from Soweto originally, his parents moved to Johannesburg, where he benefited from a privileged education. Even now, he shares his apartment/life with a blonde ex-pat, called Nicky (Emily McArthur), who pollutes the rainbow vibe with her inane prattle.

He returns to the township to research his role. "I want to meet a gangster," he says, naively. His uncle shows him some moves - the way you walk is essential to the look - but warns him off the criminal underworld. "I just want to touch base with reality," Sox says.

He discovers that Zama (Rapulana Seiphemo), whom he knew at primary school, is the local hard man, with a crew of experienced young car thieves. Zama treats Sox with suspicion, as someone who has gone over to the other side, meaning the white side.

Sox's insecurities are matched by Zama's invented persona. When asked how he learned his gangster style, Zama says at the movies. Sylvester Stallone was his role model, not Wesley Snipes, which Sox finds incongruous.

The film touches upon what it means to be South African in this new, liberated, class-conscious country ("The only freedom we've fought for is the right to get sozzled in the evening," Sox's uncle says), but so lightly that the spectre of HIV Aids is barely mentioned and the causes of poverty never.

Writer/director Oliver Schmitz uses chapter headings, such as DISCONNECTED, FRIENDSHIP, GANGSTA JIVE, that don't add anything to the flow. The performances are fresh and exhilarating, but it is difficult to disguise the mainstream thrust of the film, which slips in a pseudo love triangle and points its handguns sideways like in Training Day.

Reviewed on: 08 Aug 2002
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Middle-class black actor goes to Soweto to learn how to behave like a gangster.
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Director: Oliver Schmitz

Writer: Oliver Schmitz

Starring: Tony Kgoroge, Rapulana Seiphemo, Percey Matsemela, Makhaola Ndebele, Moshidi Motsmegwa

Year: 2000

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Germany UK South Africa France


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