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by Roger Young / 03.04.2010

To be mean about The Race-ist for it’s c-grade nature is little like making fun of your inbred cousins for drooling at family lunch; it announces it’s intentions clearly on the poster, there is no point in being surprised about it carrying them out. For what it is (a very cheaply made film about the drag racing scene in Joburg’s “South”) it’s not that terrible; mostly because it’s well aware of its audience and it sets out to please them. The fact that the stunts are amateur and the humour hardly a notch above Schuster wont really matter to its primary audience, zef okes of all races who like trashy women, pounding house music, c-list celebrities and custom cars. I could never say that The Race-ist is a good film, but it is an incredibly honest one.

It may be awash with c-grade celebrities, bad dialogue and stereotypes, but it’s refreshing that it exists. Part of a new breed of independent films (Discreet, Intonga, Crime, and I Now Pronounce You Black and White being some of the others) that are produced with non-traditional funding, The Race-ist is full of first time filmmaker errors that speak of an enthusiasm and bravery that is sorely lacking in more seriously funded films being produced at the moment. Let me not deceive you though, The Race-ist is very badly cobbled together from the pieces of other films but regardless of that, it has it’s own distinct personality, it’s plot elements may be derivative but it’s heart is not.

If you’re not into drag racing, house music and unfresh zef I wouldn’t recommend going to see The Race-ist. It’s the story of a coloured kid, Lukas who wants to be drag racer like his white father, Solly, who did a runner years ago, he hooks up with a couple of crazy bio chemists with a secret formula for a new fuel and a hot chick who trains him to drive. Hi-jinks and montages ensue as our hero races toward the final showdown with his father.

The cast is sprinkled with DJ Fresh and Kurt Darren, indicating just what kind of soundtrack you’re in for. But why can’t steroid junkies from Boksburg have a movie for their kind, replete with trashy girls, sponsored Ed Hardy t-shirts (worn exclusively by the dumb henchman played by Bad Brad from Survivor (or was it Idols, I can’t remember) in a masterpiece of target marketing, and budget custom cars? Well, here’s the point, with the equipment available, some clever product placement (although the camera does linger a bit too long on some brands when panning over the cars, but I guess that’s how drag racing is financed, so it is kind honest) and a couple of mates as extra’s, anyone can now make a movie. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be good.

The Race-ist suffers mostly because filmmaker Andrew Wilmot knows the story needs plot points, he just doesn’t know what to do once he gets to them. The film unfolds in a simplistic manner: and now it’s time for a scene where Lukas gets angry, and now it’s time for a scene where Ian Roberts says something enigmatic and now it’s time for a scene where Lukas saves the day. If only Wilmot had fleshed these scenes out a little more with his actors, he might have needed less exposition and got more empathy. Throughout The Race-ist the characters make some pretty big decisions without any sort of indication of motivation or foreshadowing.

Exposition is a problem for lead “villain” Solly, in that his voiceover is either about establishing a secondary character or explaining one of his really odd decisions, but without ever really getting to the root of his schizophrenic behavior. Most characters, in fact, act according to some strange code lifted from a million Clint Eastwood films. There are trailing plot points all over the place, the opening scene with Vince getting chased by a hundred metro police for speeding on the M1 is never really contextualized, that the bio chemists want to go open source is also left mysteriously hanging, and where exactly did DJ Fresh get that small bomb?

The budget restrictions create a certain honesty. That the hot girls are not that hot (the instances of cleavage and sex appeal is on a PG level) and the cars are not that fancy is probably the best part of the film, it gives it its heart. This is not a film about some out of touch impossible dream; it’s a film about people who scrape money together to indulge in their fantasies, like the filmmakers themselves, the characters in the film succeed, the filmmakers do not.

In the end The Race-ist is let down by it’s budget, it’s the kind of film where you can forgive anything if there is a set piece as a climax. But the principle problem is that the stunts and car chases are so much smoke and mirrors, most of the car races are close-ups on tires, faces with the commentators explaining what we should be seeing, this kind of obvious budget saving cuts the wind out of the climax entirely.

As amateurishly plotted, as over acted, as garish, as full of comedy stereotypes (Strini Pillai I’m looking at you) as bad as The Race-ist is, it is exactly the kind of film that we need in South Africa now, a film rooted in the present that sets out to entertain, refreshingly free of hand wringing scenes dealing with past injustices (the title refers to a throwaway joke and is more a marketing ploy than anything else, race is not an issue in this film). The Race-ist does not deliver on the action (nor on the sex, there is distinctly not enough flesh for this kind of film), but it will entertain a specific market, and it was made cheaply enough to recoup enough of it’s money to enable Wilmot to try again, and with the kind of enthusiasm for film making that The Race-ist displays, he will hopefully do better next time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not recommending that you go see The Race-ist, I am merely telling you that because it exists, it means that there is a kind of hope for a new film making culture in South Africa.

5   4
RESPONSES (24)
  1. sleaze says:

    I have always have found that it is the almost hot girls that are actually hotter, for one thing they try harder – Do you have any idea where I can get a blow up of that poster? it just screams sleaze!

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  2. are you the the Roger Young that wrote ‘taking the long way home’? if so, i would like to read more short stories by you.

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  3. what are we all, rolling and rolling, towards? my grandmother said when the tank gives in, people strike out thirsty. thats why when the thieves hit our village she first took them for a baptism. Ronalds father was a farmer, he had green eyes, couldnt speak a word of English and lived eZeleni his whole life. there will always be white people in the world, she said. at the same time, they will be burning and fixing the world. watch them from up close. and from afar, see them in the mirror, cracked and useless, but capable. capable just as you are.

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  4. Andrew says:

    Howzit.

    I’m the director 🙂

    I won’t be answering the other scathing reviews. South African critics are notoriously harsh and most of the critics just prove their absolute ignorance of film making with their completely biased attack on the extremely back breaking efforts of film makers.
    I kinda expected the harsh reviews – bloody tough film to make with blouw draad en tang. I think our budget was about 50 bucks in the end. painful combo of first time film making and peanuts to play with…

    Anyhoo, I’m answering this one because I loved the review.

    Our film probably deserves the bashing it’s getting from critics (first time movie, low budget etc. as I mentioned above), but rarely do I see a review where the reviewer actually constructively crits the work. I get the impression that you (the reviewer) actually gives a damn about the local film industry. This review is something we can use. Bravo!

    Our target markets are watching the movie and enjoying it somewhat (thank God) but obviously the next movie has to be 10 x better – budget or no – We are very passionate about getting it right (eventually).

    It is with that spirit that I read every review that is written about the movie. South African film makers have a driving passion to compete on the world stage and getting there with Rands is going to take a concerted effort by the entire film industry, producers and to reviewers to constructively build and encourage!

    Most reviews leave the film maker devastated and discouraged. Reading this one, albeit its’ honest harshness, was a breath of fresh air for me.

    Nicely done.

    Andrew.

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  5. bill botes says:

    No one ever minds being Rogered..

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  6. alex zulu says:

    well said,good honest crit and mature response…makes me just want to help.its why we like mahala…>>>andrew if u need decent soundtrack for your next/new film,drop me a mail
    at shuttersdown@gmail.com

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  7. ja boet says:

    The review may have a refreshing angle, but Roger took way too long to say what he needed to. It could quite easily have been half the length. Where’s that sub-editor?

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  8. Roger Young says:

    @ja boet, It is half the length, you should have seen what I turned in.

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  9. math rocker says:

    then next time divide by 4?

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  10. anastassia molto says:

    this is reading not maths.

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  11. dissapointed says:

    next time use local modded cars(M3’s, Cupra’s etc etc )
    and for god sake show the cars when they are being raced/driven.. dont show the helmets of the drivers…aaargh .. i went in expecting a cool movie about the local street racing scene..but instead watch a really bad movie with a guy that couldnt drive and some daddy issues……oh and the last race ,come on there was no chance that the vw was gona beat the GTR!!!!…

    clever title … not so clever movie!

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  12. dissapointed says:

    oh and if you wana get a good idea what the local street/track racing scene is .. then go soem of teh hang out and get a real view.. dont make up some of teh ridiculous stuff taht was in the movie.. damn i wish i could those minutes wasted wacthing this movie back

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  13. dissapointed says:

    strini pillay you supposed to be indian but you have the worst fake indian accent i have ever heard..

    and how many indians do you know called “harold” with that voice ??
    sheesh!

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  14. B says:

    Seen the film. Thought Roger was kind. Making a film is hard-to-impossible, so sure some applause is warranted. That said, films have been made on much lesser budgets and demonstrated much more competence. I’ll save my applause for someone who does something competent with little-to-no-budget.

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  15. Zandile says:

    It frustrates me when “film makers” talk about how tough it is to make good low budget movies. What exactly is low budget? A good, no, a great movie can be made on about a million and if you think I am wrong…. well… I guess you are entitled to it. Like anything in life, the quality depends on the passion, not just of the director or the producer or any of those egocentrics, If your movie has passionate crew and cast from the director all the way down to your basic unpaid runner, then your movie is going to be a hit. Character development, is another biggie, no one has a clue how to write a character and develop it. You can see it in your head but can you make it happen on paper and we rely too heavily on stereotypes this upsets me because I really believe that South Africans are so diverse and adaptable and amazing (in fact, I think that South Africans are truly are a race of its own and definately more beautiful than any other people in the world) we really have amazing characters to draw inspiration from . I truly believe our country is capable of making a movie to Hollywood standards, so it frustrates me when I hear how hard it is to make a decent movie on a low budget. Every time why throw up a really bad South African movie, it gives South Africans a reason not to go watch the next one and if a movie cant make a positive impact in our own country, what are the chances of making a massive impact anywhere else? I wish there were more REAL film makers, the ones who do not compromise story telling for the sake of their ego’s. If this is the best South Africa can come up with now….. I am going to have to start watching re-runs of the A-Team, their explosions are shit, the body doubles are obvious but in the end, they had character and heart and what girl could resist Face?

    On closing, Mr Director, critics all over the world are harsh, they are evil bastards and bastardetts and thats good, because when you look at the price of a movie ticket, I would rather have the critic tell me up front that it was shit awful than waste R100 on a movie and popcorn and walk out dissapointed. It is easier when there are mixed reviews with one crit saying it was good, the other saying it was bad because you still get to go watch and prove one of them wrong. But when all of them say the same thing? I should have just scraped up an extra R60 and gone for a mani instead 🙂

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  16. SA_Movie_Fan says:

    Little Miss Sunshine was shot for 10,000$ – Nuff Said.

    And I stumbled across this soon to release movie called The Unforgiving
    – Here is the FB page below:

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Unforgiving/182824761184

    And the trailer on Youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxRXMLDoNCk

    This was made for R250,000.

    Now that looks hot!!

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  17. Dave says:

    One of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time. The story was not bad but it was poorly executed! I have seen movies with a budget lower than what had and it was brilliant so don’t blame the lack of skill on the budget please. When you watch a good low budget movie like….
    ‘flywheel’ for instance the afterward response would be: “Imagine they had a 100 mil budget” …..after watching the Race-ist I thought….”My word I’m glad they didn’t have a 100 mil budget because it would have been a very expensive cock-up”

    Me and my wife were the only people in the cinema watching the race-ist……enough said.

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  18. filmmaker says:

    budget??? hmmm?? congrats on your first movie though. that is all.

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  19. aapman says:

    I have to say that this movie is what a tipical run off from fast and furious in boksburg would be like… the greed of the sponsors and the harsh imports.. guys we race golf, opel, r100 rx7 and datsuns around these parts, i agree to the ego part. shame. i loved many sa films even very bad ones. bcause nobodys tryng to fit a 1000000 into a coffee can. i would have said that going to the drag scenes and asking the local bugeted drivers to come rather than to make a fake sa spin off from a american movie style.. i have seen better home videos displaying better race scenes from cellphones, due to real racing. real competitive people and real south african racers. not high budget tuners trying to get noticed by overseas companies (i`d say being laughed at. specially the supras) with almost impossible to import cars.. thay race whats available overseas , why could this movie not feature it. yes. the golf was there,. the boksburg starter pack.. i love vw and locally its a rival opel vs vw and everyone trying to beat the bm guys.. which we did. plenty times in the 90s . good story.. k@k race scenes. but a nice try .. rather , next time. make it south african and not masked american (pretty sure some of the sponsors didnt mind the free plug)

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  20. Frog - TeamKRazy says:

    Maybe a few more race-scenes etc would have been good.

    But there are some true bored people posting here man. Doesn’t practice make perfect? Do we not get better with every effort? Wait till Andrew’s next movie.

    I have some serious respect for Andrew and I know what he was going through to try and make this movie. And guess what. No matter how bad it got, he stuck it out and he made the movie. Respect.

    @ Dissapointed. I challenge you to go out on your hands and knees to beg for budget and then try this type of movie. I cannot wait to crit your work.

    @ Andile. Some really professional, well-written advice. To make the next movie a success, I think you should collaborate with Dissapointed. Should be an awesome movie.

    My comments are not strictly about the movie, but about the passion that went in. The dedication. The struggles and the man that gave everything he owns to make an attempt. God am I proud to be South African. We need more Andrew Wilmots.

    And please dont compare other low-budget movies. None of them are even remotely comparable in genre to this attempt.

    Let’s all get behind Andrew and help him make the next one something to remember. If we can all get together to support a football being kicked around without a story line or plot, then I’m sure as hell we can all stick together and be proudly South African, with constructive positive and negative criticism for the future. No point in posting if all you wanna do is complain about the 100 bucks you spent. No-one cares. Sure you’re entitles to your opinion. But we’re all entitled to not have to read dribble.

    I’m behind you mate. I give you 150% for your effort and what yuo tried to do with the movie. And I’ll give you 150% on your next one.

    Frog
    Regional Chairman – Gauteng
    Team Krazy

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  21. Ggirl says:

    I looked forward to watching a South African movie and expected a diverse cast true to the rainbow nation we are supposed to be. Instead what we got was a bunch of stereotypes and cliches that are anachronisms , somewhere from a bad 80s South African comedy. I have no Indian friends with such an exaggerated accent, at least not the ones that hang with blind black girls! The cast was like a nod to every qualification of Previously Disadvantaged. Coloured boys raised by black mothers and absent white fathers don’t sound coloured, they would sound black or have a model C white accent. South boys don’t report to DJ Fresh hench leaders who report to IT CEOs. Now for the girls…the maim girl Angel is supposed to be a stand out gorgeous chick, instead we get a plain Jane with a huge forehead and cure car? The lead character has to see Angel, yet no where do we see a friendship develop never mind a relationship. And does no one work? How can everyone be available at 6 in the morning to watch the dude go go carting and stack tyres? Granted the Indian dude can get you anything you want, but how and what and when exactly? And what does the blind black olfactory protege do besides make some model C accented comments? How exactly does an Indian spinner and blind black chick become best friends? This must be a first in the history of film making I give you that. The product sponsorship was awfully blatant. Sponsors must be happy. Because of the movie I know that Auto Mate does franchising; Carnival City sponsors races; all South hulligans are dumb as door knobs and wear head to yor Ed Hardy; racing groupies all wear Adidas tops as do blind black girls and oh ja, Play is the energy drink of racing and black hoodlums who are skilled in the art of sourcing small bombs.

    The leads mother doesn’t look like she could have gotten pregnant by Malema, so how did she bag a supposed cool Solly who can pull 12 year olds in Adidas tops? And how did Lucas know that was his father if he left when he was born dark? And where were the Apartheid SS when he was banging the shebeen queens at the height of apartheid?

    Urgh so many plot holes, so many end trails or entrails same difference. Watch Mzanzi Movie channel to see some great SA movies and shorts made on lesser budgets. If you have a low budget, then you have to have great deep characters and a great story to tell that engages and enthralls an audience. Hell you need those elements no matter the budget. If you don’t have that then you would need a Transformers budget to detract the eye from poor characters and lack of originality.

    I liked the lab dudes though they stole the scenes. Hired the DVD, did not dig the movie, but will continue to support SA movies as long as film makers learn from the bad reviews and take the lessons into future productions.

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  22. tukstah says:

    lol i ddnt lyk the movie sorry anyway.. gta say these kif-kak buttons have got to be the coolest things ever lol i wish facebook were lyk that!!!

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  23. budget racer says:

    i watch about every race film i can find cause racing is my passion… i build my cars from custom built parts made from factory parts and i dont do bad…. yes you can tell its on a budget but i race on a run down barely noticed track in the u.s. and me and my friends and fellow car builders from here just watched the movie and have to say i agree next time must be 10x better or not at all andrew but for a budget movie not a bad movie for us “budget” non sponsored racers who do it for passion….that i like

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  24. Anonymous says:

    absolute worst shyt i have seen. I watched badly made south african movies but this has got to be the worst ever. As for that dude, oke or whatever you wanna call him strini pillay, you need to get kicked in your nuts so your voice box actually comes right. Where in south africa will you ever find an indian speaking the way you do? And to think that you are an indian makes me wonder if you were bread from a goat. Sheesh dude get real, you just made a huge ass of yourself.
    Director of the movie please find yourself a new job, you suck at making movies!

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