About Advertise
Culture, Movies


by Samora Chapman / 17.07.2015

The opening night of the Durban International Film Festival is one of the highlights of the year for our freaky seaside town. It’s kind-of a big deal… it takes months to plan and piles of resources to realize; it provides exciting opportunities for local filmmakers and students; it gives local audiences the opportunity to see incredible films; it showcases our city to international filmmakers and electrocutes the Durban scene like a defibrillator to the chest. So you can understand the disappointment when the opening film turns out to be so bloodless.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but expectations were high, and rightfully so. Last night Ayanda opened the festival and Sarah Blecher (director) introduced the film and key members of the cast and crew to an audience electrified with excitement. The red carpet, free Coke and popcorn had softened us up, warm and fuzzy. Sarah explained that her film celebrated a female protagonist and the beauty of urban Mzansi – a contrast to the action and violence that dominates local and international cinema. The stage was set for a great night out at the movies…

From the opening scene it is clear that Ayanda as a film really is aesthetically pleasing. The cinematography is brilliant, the setting in downtown Jozi is evocative and colourful and the soundtrack is straight up dope (shouts to Tumi and the angel-voiced Alice Phoebe Lou!) The styling/costume design is also a win… with the various characters dressed in fly threads that truly reflect the definitive style of contemporary South African youth.

At the crux of the film is the female protagonist, Ayanda (played by Fulu Mugovhani); a fearless and ambitious young woman who takes over the family business – a car workshop/garage. Ayanda’s youthful creative energy and love for vintage cars transforms the business, but she proceeds to burn and alienate many of those around her as she passionately (sometimes ruthlessly) pursues her dreams. Ultimately she softens and learns some tough lessons – growing up in the process, finding love and dealing with the deep grief of losing her father.

As an idea, Ayanda is on the right track… celebrating a young heroine and lingering on the beautiful details of life despite the relentless hardships and sorrow that often seem to govern our world. Fulu Mugovhani is undoubtedly a bright talent and this is her first feature film. She is fairly convincing throughout, shifting from moments of passion and inspiration to pain and frustration as the film lurches forward like a Citi Golf on a cold winter morning.

It soon becomes evident that the story and characters lack depth and it all turns into a reflection in a puddle – lacking conviction, heart and purpose.


Ayanda is far too complex in terms of story-telling. There’s an obscure parallel story that did much to confuse things – that of a nameless young hipster who documented all the characters in the film by capturing portraits and interviews; thus revealing some of their inner workings and creating a ‘portrait’ of the city as well. This was a sweet idea, but it was poorly executed – the awkward documentarian hanging about the fringes of the film and fumbling with his tripod. That said, the actual photographic portraits/snapshots of the characters were powerful.

The other mode of storytelling that ‘almost’ works is the representation of Ayanda’s exciting creativity through stunning colourful animations. Ayanda brings her love for textiles, colours and African flavour to the car biz – refurbishing vintage cars instead of going the old school grease monkey route. The animated break from traditional cinema are refreshing, but the vignettes fail to add anything meaningful to the plot or the character’s journey… leaving me with the impression that I’d just had an acid flashback. Stoked and confused.

The mangled narrative flow and the average dialogue left my heart slumbering soundly and tears safely stowed in their ducts.

Ultimately the film fails to reveal any great truths about the human condition, or grapple with any important issues in the troubled Rainbow Nation, which really puts it in the realm of entertainment, and not ‘GREAT FILM’ worthy of opening an international film festival. There’s a heroin, a love story, a villain, a fall from grace and (of course) redemption. All nicely packaged in pretty/gritty Afro-pop culture.

Ayanda is like a 100-minute long soapy… cliched, over-dramatic, predictable and painful to endure like rainy afternoons when granny is holding down the remote control and refuses to give that shit up.

At the end of the day, there’s 100 more films to catch… so let’s move onward. SiyaQhubeka!

*Ayanda is screening several more times over the next week. Find the schedule here.

9   10