DIFF – Wonder Boy for President – Review

As a Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) goer, you’re often enticed by the possibility that your movie ticket will bring you a film that’s truly special. Something different. Something insightful. Something worth writing about…

As I read the synopsis of Wonder Boy for President in the 37th DIFF catalogue, I got the inkling that this was the film I just couldn’t miss. And boy, was my intuition spot on. With a catchy name that hints at its themes, this movie showcased South African society and its complex political playground. The film’s credits describe it as trying to “interpret SA’s political realm” and I do believe that it met its objective.

Let’s start with the basics – a summary. As mentioned, the film explores SA’s political realm in mockumentary style, through the eyes of an up-and-coming political leader named Wonder Boy (Kagiso Lediga, played with exceptional naivety and humour). He is a township hero from the Eastern Cape who is recruited by the ANC Youth League (yes, you read correctly – the ANC Youth League). Before I lose some of you, fear not – this is not a propaganda piece or political campaigning. It’s just brilliant satire. The film is an exceptionally funny insight into our political system and what I’d like to think of as a snow globe of Jozi life. Wonder Boy is flanked by two corrupt Youth League comrades, Shakes and the aptly named Brutus (Ntosh Madlingozi and Tony Miyambo). The film is as much a success from the likability of Lediga as it is from the brilliant performances of Madlingozi and Miyambo, who are both convincing and hilarious in their own right. The clever banter between the two highlights the ambitious scriptwriting that might have been lacking from a few other local productions this year. John Barker’s directing was also noteworthy. It was calculated, clever and filled with clear direction. The humour varied from overt to so subtle that you might miss it if it weren’t for the film’s cohesive editing, scriptwriting and acting all coming together to give you a film that’s truly relevant to the current political climate. The film also has an undercurrent of romance in the form of a girl from the proverbial ‘other side of the tracks’, played by the talented Thishiwe Ziqubu (leader of the DA Youth League). The romantic detour completes this almost coming-of age story of a grown man (not exposed to the betrayals and complications of city life), who learns to navigate his personal beliefs in a landscape that goes against it.

It plays on the delicate balance between power and corruption and the even finer balance of doing what’s right and doing what’s best. It’s hard to pick up on that at times as its filled with so many funny punches that you’re simply waiting for the next joke or … cameo. Believe me, the cameos just get bigger and better. From beloved local comedians (Loyiso Gala, David Kau, David Kibuuka and John Vlismas) to snippets of political heavyweights (Jacob Zuma, Helen Zille, Julius Malema, Floyd Shivambu and Mmusi Maimane). I challenge you not to enjoy this gem. Sadly, DIFF has just recently ended but this film is sure to arrive on local cinemas soon so don’t miss out on your chance to see it.

For those who missed out on the closing night’s award show, here are DIFF’s top picks:

Best Feature FilmThe Violin Player directed by Bauddhayan Mukherji.
Best South African Feature FilmTess (a 2013 Durban FilmMart project), directed by Meg Rickards
Best Documentary awardMartha and Niki directed by Tora Mkandawire Martens
Best SA Documentary  – The Journeymen, directed by Sean Metelerkamp.
Best Short FilmGrandma’s Day (Dzie’n Babci) directed by Milosz Sakowski.
Best African Short Film AwardNew Eyes directed by Hiwot Admasu.
Best South African Short Film awardeKhaya (Home), directed by Shubham Mehta
Best Actor Award – Mohsen Namjoo for his performance in Radio Dream, directed by Babak Jalali.
Best Actress – Christia Visser for her role as Tess in Tess directed by Meg Rickards.
Best Direction – Ciro Guerra for Embrace Of The Serpent
Best Cinematography  – Chris Lotz for The Endless River
Best Screenplay – Ciro Guerra and Thoedor Koch-Grunberg for Embrace of The Serpent
Best EditingTess which was edited by Linda Man
Artistic BraveryNeon Bull directed by Gabriel Mascaro
Amnesty International Durban Human Rights AwardNoma, directed by Pablo Pineda.

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