Even though I’ve been living in South Africa for the last four years I haven’t seen many movies from this country. The film industry isn’t strong and there aren’t many South African movies available apart from average Afrikaans romantic comedies. Given the context, when the Labia in Cape Town introduced two movies, made by the new generation of South African directors, I had to see them.
Jenna Bass’s love story, “Love the One You Love“, is a based in Cape Town. The main couple we follow is a South African guy, Sandile and a Zimbeabwan girl, Terri. They really love each other but is love ever enough? The other main character, Eugene, can’t get over his lost lover and his close friend is anything but helping him to get over her.
On the positive side, the main couple has a great chemistry and they’re pleasant to watch on the screen together. Chi Mhendi is absolutely brilliant in the portrayal of Terri, Andile Nebulane as Sendile complements her. Their problems are different from those of your average couple but still easy to relate to. There are also a lot of humorous moments in the film. I liked the non-static camera which reminds us of “Blair Witch Project” or more ambitiously of Lars Von Trier’s movies and the dogma movement. The director also has a general sense of aesthetics that makes “Love the One You Love” visually interesting. We also can’t forget about the music that intensifies the particular feel of the movie.
The drawback of the movie are over-dramatisation of the Eugene story. I think the feature would have been much better if it focused solely on the couple. It also seems like the author put a lot of effort to make sure that the movie is politically correct – we have a representative of every race in the cast, even though the sad truth about Cape Town reality is that most people stick to mixing within their own ethnic backgrounds in their social lives. I think that was, what I disliked the most. The portrayal of the New South Africa that’s wishful thinking and not reality. Apartment in Sea Point and parties in Long Street are a part of lifestyle that’s unlikely to belong to Simamkele, who’s a dog handler or his girlfriend, a sex line operator. It’s not to say that each South African movie has to deal with poverty, crime or xenophobia but rather that the privileged vision many of us have makes us sometimes see the world much better than it actually is.
All in all I’d give a 6,5/10 to the movie. Bass seems to be a promising director. It was her debut feature and I’ve seen a lot of first movies of now famous and critically acclaimed directors that had much less potential and charm.
A review of the second movie “Necktie Youth” will be published soon.