Paradise Stopby Sihle Mthembu / 17.03.2011
Following the success of White Wedding comes another tale of two friends living in very different realities – this time in Limpopo. Paradise Stop confirms that Jann Turner is one of the most “out of the box” filmmakers we have.
We originally reviewed it here when it showed at the Durban International Film Festival.
Like Turner’s critically acclaimed White Wedding, Paradise Stop is an almost brutal satire on the contemporary South African layman. Set in a small town in Limpopo the film tells the story of two friends on opposite sides of the law and how they fight to keep their sanity and values intact. It might not sound like a new plot but all things considered, in the barren wasteland of South African comedy its an epic shift towards the left.
Starring the two godfathers of Sollywood Rapulana Seiphemo as a cop trying to do the right thing in a bad system, and Kenneth Nkosi is his friend who has to pull off one last job before he can stop being a criminal. Paradise Stop does not boast heavy action sequences and sure-fire gunplay as you would expect of a heist film, but it has subdued moments of intense one on one drama and drizzles of unexpected light humor that are almost reminiscent of the Woody Allen classic Small Time Crooks.
Well-constructed by both Turner’s artistry as well as the immense talent of her cast to carry through the dialogue without sounding pretentious, Paradise Stop is an ambitious film not only as a personal project for Turner, but also for a local film industry which has had to be sensitive about the portrayal of crime and its implications.
The film recycles many familiar faces from White Wedding, but that can be excused in a small industry like ours, where you need the star power of Rapulana and Nkosi to get the mileage required for distribution. But the film also employs a string of local soapie stars like Sonia Sedibe (Generations), Madhuvha Madima (Muvhango) and Keketso Semoko (Isidingo) who drag it down somewhat. Occasionally you find yourself thinking that the characters you are watching are slightly altered versions of their small screen alter egos.
These moments however are few and far between and are often outdone by one liners in the tradition of Red Foxx that will leave you snorting with laughter. One stand out scene is where Detective Potso Mogopudi (Rapulana) is being scolded by his boss for over exerting his powers. Commander Matlaku makes it clear that “you cannot go around town with sirens blazing like the president of the youth league.”
Its moments like these that make Paradise Stop a refreshing breakaway from the somewhat overdone slapstick to which South African audiences have become accustomed. Many critics however have stated that Turner’s style is somewhat informed by the films of grandpa Leon, slating White Wedding as just another buddy movie in the tradition of Zulu on my Stoep. If Schuster does have an influence on Turner it is perhaps more a case of respect than style. Any local filmmaker who can gross millions in South Africa is well worth respecting.
In fact Turner seems to have gone on a tangent with this film, deliberately avoiding too many close ups and musically driven montage sequences. In so doing she forges an intricate mixture of drama and comedy, with a distinctively original signature. Overall Paradise Stop is a film worth watching. Not a Hollywood remake nor a Sollywood half-bake.