Film Review: Five Fingers for Marseilles (2017); Director: Michael Matthews.

Five Fingers for Marseilles

All Rights Reserved to the rightful owners. Five Fingers for Marseilles Press Still. World Cinema Festival Amsterdam 2018.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – 4/5.

Author: Feargal Agard | Runtime: 120 min. | Director: Michael Matthews | Year: 2017.

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What a captivating and exciting film! Five Fingers for Marseilles | Menoana e Mehlano ea Marseilles (2017) entails historic topics such as segregation and oppression, but also the mythical themes of the fight for freedom and to redeem oneself.

Five Fingers for Marseilles tells the story of Tau (Vuyo Dabula), Lerato (Zethu Dlomo), Luyanda (Mduduzi Mabaso), Unathi (Aubrey Poolo), Bongani (Kenneth Nkosi), Zulu (Ntsika Tiyo), a group of young kids who are part of a pact -as they like to refer to it- named “Five Fingers”. They founded this group during the Apartheid (segregation) in South Africa. They live in a community that’s called Railway which is not far away from the town of Marseilles which is populated by white settlers who took their land away. The police brutality and oppression used against the inhabitants of Railway causes them to take a stand. At first, they try a semi non-violent approach until Tau kills two policemen. He flees, but his actions triggered a conflict that will change the lives of his friends and the inhabitants of Railway and Marseilles. Twenty years later, Tau is released from prison and cautiously attempts to reconnect with his friends and family. At first, the town looks perfectly tranquil, but it doesn’t take long for him to find out that the town is held in the grip of a vicious gang. Even worse, his friends seem to carry the blame. Even though, he tries to keep his distance he and his friends quickly become targets, which eventually compels Tau to take action. Together with his old and new friends they once more take a stand and fight for their freedom.

Five Fingers for Marseilles is a South African Western thriller film directed by Michael Matthews and produced by Asger Hussain, Yaron Schwartzman, Sean Drummond and Michael Matthews. The film screened at the Discovery section of the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, but also at the 2018 World Cinema Festival Amsterdam. The film has a historical setting during the Apartheid (segregation) in South Africa in a time when the native inhabitants were oppressed by the European settlers who took away their lands. Thematically this film is about the fight for freedom from oppression and segregation, but on a more personal level we journey with the main character, Tau played by Vuyo Dabula, who breaks with their no-gun violence rule by killing two policemen. An act he will regret the rest of his prison-life and all he wants is to reconnect with his friends and family hoping to start anew. The film also stars Hamilton Dhlamini, Lizwi Vilakazi, Anthony Oseyemi, Jerry Mofokeng, Kenneth Fok, Warren Masemola and Garth Breytenbach.

The performances are pure and raw in a most authentic way. At first, we are introduced to the younger versions of the main characters who are part of the “Five Fingers”. They are young, bright, happy and fierce for their young ages as they decided to take a stand against their oppressors. Besides that, we are confronted with beautiful and breathtaking landscapes where the sun shines brightly. While the beginning of the film feels light. It later becomes much more dark, just like a real western movie. The actors perform in such a way that it adds to the believability of the film. It makes you care about the characters that we need to cheer for and it makes us angry at the characters that we are taught to hate. There are many moments when you hold your heart when something bad is about to happen. Especially when you have these bloody and pretty shocking moments that make you shut your eyes for a brief moment.

The film is a display of stunning and great cinematography using the same aesthetic genre style as Western films used to do. The landscape is romanticized through the wide master shots that often display the town in the center or serve as a thrilling backdrop where the people are small and nature is big and powerful. The landscapes are even used to describe the current tones and moods of the film. For example, when everything seems sunny, bright and hopeful, everything is light, but when things become dark we even see storms and lightning on the background that emphasize the evil nature of the vicious gang. When we take a closer look in the town of Marseilles (civilization) we more often deal with scenes that are either at night or scarcely illuminated, which renders these scenes as dark and or ominous. There is no sign of particular new forms of cinematic experimentation. The cinematography largely serves to essentially recreate the cinematic tropes of Western movies, but of course in a more clean and modern way. Which is why the ending scene -which I will not spoil of course- is an absolute nostalgic thrill to see.

I have given Five Fingers for Marseilles a star rating of: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – 4/5. I believe this film to be a great recommendation. I always yearn for more exciting films from countries and places that aren’t that much in connection with the mainstream cinema world. I did feel that there was a confusing moment when they cross over to the future which takes place two decades later. Besides that, I can imagine that some spectators and critics might see the recreation of western cinematic and narrative tropes as repetitive. But how often has the world seen such a stunning Western film in a South African (post-) Apartheid setting?

Released as from the 8th of September 2017.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, thriller, Western | Languages: SeSotho, English, Afrikaans | Distributor: Indigenous Film Distribution; Seen at World Cinema Festival Amsterdam 2018.

In regard to all pictures and trailer footage. All Rights Reserved to the rightful owners. Five Fingers for Marseilles Press Still. World Cinema Amsterdam festival 2018.

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