Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
ADIFF ’12: Hopeville
is the sort of town that will drive you to drink. It is probably not the place for a recovering
alcoholic granted provisional custody of his estranged son, but Amos Manyoni
does not have a lot of options in John Trengove’s Hopeville (trailer
an original feature film adaptation of the popular South African miniseries,
which screens as part of the 2012 African Diaspora International Film Festival
in New York.
play in important role in the life of Manyoni’s son Themba. He was a champion swimmer, but his mother tragically
died in an accident en route to one of his meets. Clean and sober for over a year, Manyoni
regains his parental rights, as long as he adheres to three conditions: stay
away from alcohol, hold down a steady job, and provide Themba access to a
pool. Hopeville sounds perfect. He has a gig lined up there with the
municipal government and there is a pool, except not really.
and in a state of disrepair, the pool now serves as a garbage dump. The corrupt Mayor and his council cronies are
planning to develop it into a booze drive through, but they are reluctant to
tell Manyoni their plans forthrightly. Instead,
they do their best to secretly undermine his efforts to single-handedly fix up
the pool. Much to their frustration
though, Manyoni’s work begins to inspire the depressed town.
Hopeville is the sort of
film tailor-made for feel-good festival play.
There is redemption, family values, spirited old folks, and triumph over
adversity. Manyoni even develops a
romance with Fikile, the mayor’s ice cream vendor mistress, but it is decidedly
chaste—just an odd kiss and a bit of handholding.
course, you cannot spell “Hopeville” without “evil.” That might be too strong a term, but Desmond
Dube’s venal mayor is definitely a pointed portrayal of post-apartheid political
opportunists. Yet, by and large, Hopeville is about inclusion and
Ndada is painfully earnest but still reasonably down to earth and credible as
Manyoni. While there are all kinds of
manipulation going on, viewers will still find themselves caring about his
trials and tribulations. While Dube
plays the mayor like a caricature of graft, Hopeville
boasts several appealingly colorful supporting turns, including Jonathan
Pienaar as the Fred, the not as bad as he looks barkeep.
On one hand, Hopeville
is competently produced, likable, and well-intentioned. It is also predictable and sentimental. Sometimes, that is all rather
comforting. Recommended for patrons in
the mood for reassuringly inspirational cinema or interested in contemporary South
African film, Hopeville screens this
Saturday (11/24) and the following Thursday (12/6) as part of the ADIFF in New
Labels: ADIFF '12, South African Cinema