Pleasantly surprised by local gangster movie

It was with great apprehension that I agreed to go and see Noem My Skollie (Call Me Thief) the other day. I am not a fan of movies dealing with so-called coloured people on the Cape Flats because they inevitably glamourise gangsterism and related societal illnesses, such as drug dealing and other criminal behaviour.

But I was pleasantly surprised, not that it is a pleasant movie. In fact, the four of us who went to see it were traumatised afterwards because the movie is very intense. There are some graphic scenes that are justified because of the harshness of the reality that is being reflected.

This movie is once again a sign that South Africa’s movie-making skills can be up there with the best in the world – if only they are supported properly.

Noem My Skollie is based on the true story of writer John W Fredericks, who survived a two-year prison sentence by telling stories to the inmates and, in the process, avoided being caught up in the notorious prison numbers gangs.

The movie, set in Athlone on the Cape Flats in the early 1960s, features a host of local actors, some in minor and walk-on roles, but the stars are Dann Jacques Mouton and Austin Rose who play the young and the older leading character, AB.

Apart from the acting and the beautiful cinematography, what I liked about the movie was that it dealt sensitively with many themes that are still pervasive on the Cape Flats, such as the role of women, and especially mothers, how poverty is often linked to criminal behaviour and how different people choose different survival routes, despite being in almost the same situation.

Of course, the cinema where we went to go see the movie was far from full – I counted less than 20 people – and I don’t know if this is just a sign of the times, because fewer people are supporting movies, or whether it is because some people are, like me, apprehensive about seeing another Cape Flats gangster movie.

Noem My SKollie is much more than just a gangster movie. It should be compulsory viewing in schools not only on the Cape Flats but throughout South Africa to assist children who might be considering a career in crime.

I suspect it will probably pick up quite a few awards in the next few months. They will be well-deserved.