Social media has been set alight (pun intended) by the movie Matwetwe. The film is written, directed and produced by the lovable and talented comedian Kagiso Legida. You can tell the script is written by a funny man as this film made me chuckle quite a few times in the cinema. Matwetwe is the name given to the superb strand of weed showcased in the film, it’s so good its “Woolworths grade”. Capitalising on the recent decision passed in the legislature, where the consumption of marijuana is no longer against the law, this film about weed is relevant to South African audiences.
Matwetwe means wizard and there is something magical about this film. Set in the iconic township of Atteridgeville, the film is unapologetically South African. It is narrated by 3 township drunks on New Year’s Eve, setting up the theme of new beginnings in the film. As they recount the story of Lefa and Papi, the actors break the fourth wall. They address the audience directly and this makes one feel as if you are sitting on the stoep with them, getting intoxicated on new years whilst discussing township affairs.
This coming of age tale follows Lefa and Papi two recent matriculants. Lefa is a horticulturalist who has been accepted into the University of Witwatersrand to study botany. However, he does not have the funds to pay the fees. Papi is his childhood best friend who can only seem to talk about girls and getting laid. He only refers to women as bitches but I didn’t find it offensive as I also listen to music where the term for female is bitch, and then I also find myself saying bitch even though I am a feminist. With Lefa’s green fingers and Papi’s street smarts, the two grow and hustle their own brand of mary jane.
Another name you can call Matwetwe is authentic with most of the dialogue being spoken in S’pitori which is a dialect of in its own right. A vernacular that is neither Sepedi, Sesotho or Setswana but an amalgamation of these tongues, borrowed words from other languages and slang. There were subtitles the entire movie, even the English part was subtitled with S’pitori, which I thought was very interesting. This is because the movie caters for the local Atteridgeville area audience. Often times a movie gets made in an underdeveloped region but it is never expected that those residents will see the movie, they are not the target audience. By also subtitling English, the political statement is made that the target market is not only those who grew up in suburbs and international viewers. It makes the statement, ‘we are making a movie about us, for us’ not just for outsiders. When watching the film, there is definitely a sense of Kasi pride.
The characters were well developed. They weren’t one dimensional, the good guys did some questionable things and the bad guys were endearing in their own way. This made it entertaining to watch. I particularly enjoyed the scene of the drug kingpin who was a fabulously dressed gay man telling one of his stooges that he needs to take better care of his skin.
The soundtrack was good, as to be expected if one of the executive producers is Black Coffee. The Cinematography was done well. It is a beautiful film to watch with a diversity of camera shots and angles. The scenes where the red of the soil contrast against the blue sky were particularly vivid. The characters being multifaceted, the music and the cinematography all come together to give the film a distinct cool vibe.
The acting was impressive as well, the bond between Lefa and Papi is very convincing. Tebatso Mashishi’s performance as Papi was exceptional and I look forward to seeing him in other roles, granted he’s not typecast. Also, I loved that people with albinism were represented in the movie. Therefore, I think the film was cast well. Matwetwe is very relatable. Illustrating Kasi life in a country where a large portion of the population live in townships. The narrative of a youth being intelligent but not having the means to further their education and improve their standard of living is an issue many South Africans face.
“We laugh, that we may not cry”-Roger Ebert. There was some dark humour in this film. For example, one narrator spoke of how a character’s father abused his wife (the characters mother) to death, and the storyteller referred to the abuse as WWE Smackdown. You can argue that this joke is made in bad taste. Nevertheless, the film deals with serious topics like mental disturbance in an honest yet amusing way.
Girl Boss rating: 8/10