A film that’s on our list of 10 upcoming African films to get excited about (published last week), its first trailer, which premiered today, may indicate a little bit of why we selected it.
The neo-western (not exactly a genre that’s typically associated with African cinema, which makes this somewhat unique for that reason alone) is the debut feature from rising South African filmmaking duo Michael Matthews and Sean Drummond, who look to impress audiences globally with the grand scale work, after 7 years of research, including 5,000 miles of cross-country travel, development, and filming amidst the erratic winter weather of the Eastern Cape.
Set over a 20-year period, the long-form synopsis for Five Fingers for Marseilles reads: The community of Railway, attached to the remote South African town of Marseilles, are the victims of brutal police oppression and only the young “Five Fingers” will stand up to them. Their battle is heartfelt but innocent, until hot-headed Tau kills three policemen in an act of passion. He flees Marseilles, fearing for his life, but his action has triggered what will become a violent war between the police and his remaining Five Finger brothers. Twenty years later, Tau is released from a Johannesburg prison. He has become a feared and brutal gang leader, but scarred and empty inside he renounces violence and returns to the community of his childhood desiring only a peaceful life. In a new South Africa, Marseilles is indeed free, but to his dismay Tau finds that rather than the haven he hoped for, the town is a community now caught in the grip of cross-border gangs and corruption. Struggling to reconcile with his bitter past, he can keep his head down only so long. When violence spills into his own life he is reluctantly compelled to act. Railway and Marseilles need a champion to fight for their freedom once and for all. Calling in old prison-mates and with new blood at his side, Tau forms a new Five Fingers, standing against old friends and new enemies alike in a thrilling escalation of battle.
The cast includes local talent like Vuyo Dabula, who stars in the film, and is joined by Hamilton Dhlamini, Zethu Dlomo, Kenneth Nkosi, Mduduzi Mabaso, Lizwi Vilakazi, Kenneth Fok, Anthony Oseyemi, Dean Fourie, and Jerry Mofokeng.
Asger Hussain and Yaron Schwartzman are also producers on the project.
The filmmakers have said that they are influenced by American westerns, like classic John Ford-era films, as well as Spaghetti westerns and revisionist tales, telling a contemporary South African crime story in local (Sesotho and English) tongue.
They have also shared that the film will contain relevant socio-political threads, using allegory to explore the current South African political and economical climate, promising a dark, edge-of-the-seat, and stark human drama.
Cape Town-based Be Phat Motel Film Company is producing Five Fingers for Marseilles.
Announced this week, the film is set to make its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival which kicks off on September 7, 2017.
Ahead of its global debut, a thrilling first trailer has been released and is embedded below (followed by new images):