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Movie Review: Thina Sobabili - The Two of Us

Thina Sobabili translated as The Two of Us is a brave, gut-wrenching and realistic drama about the exploits of a brother and sister in the Alexandra township of Johannesburg, South Africa. We're introduced to Thulani and his sister Zanele, who become the focus of this shoestring budget production, which was self-funded and shot in the space of a week.

While Thina Sobabili achieves the almost impossible thanks to some clever "Nollywood" techniques and grueling man hours, this drama hasn't lost its edge. If anything, the deadline pressures and mounting tension add to the look-and-feel of the production and the urgency of the performances.

It's a feature film debut for writer-director and producer Ernest Nkosi, who co-wrote the script with Mosibudi Pheeda. While Thina Sobabili ran the risk of collapsing under the weight of its emotional content and turning into melodrama, Nkosi manages to steer the film clear, navigating some contentious and timely issues regarding child abuse, sugar daddies and broken families.

The central tension surrounds Thulani's attempts to protect his "baby" sister, Zanele. She's grown into a beautiful girl whom even his friends are starting to notice, despite every effort to silence them. He's so busy being over-protective as the parent in the sibling relationship and telling her off that he pushes Zanele in the opposite direction into the arms of an attentive sugardaddy.

"Nah bra... what did you say about my sister?"

Emmanuel Nkosinathi Gweva plays Thulani, whose misdirected anger makes his character unpredictable and difficult to know. It's a sincere and heartfelt performance as Nkosinathi Gweva's character grows with our empathy. Busiswe Mtshali gives Zanele just the right balance of naivete and mischief as any scorned teenager feeling the burdens of home life and the tug of peer pressure. Together, Nkosinathi Gweva and Mtshali have great on-screen chemistry and history as brother and sister.

While the entire ensemble contribute earnest performances, it's Richard Lukunku whose complex performance as Skhalo almost steals the show. His brooding screen presence and devilish charms make his character fascinating to watch. While it's a difficult and grotesque role to take on, Lukunku doesn't hold back, immersing himself in the monster. Zikhona Sodlaka enables Lukunku as Zoleka. She captures the essence of a wife and mother trapped in a difficult situation, pushed to the edge and ready to retaliate.

Ernest Nkosi keeps a lid on this slow-boiling drama turned thriller as the realities of Alexandra township take their toll on a community. It's a fearless, powerful drama that confronts social issues head on, spinning its tale in a such a compelling and vivid manner that you sometimes wonder if it isn't a poetic allegory for a much broader South African story. We journey with the characters, are distressed by their emotional state and moved by the hopelessness of it all.

Thina Sobabili isn't easy-viewing, ranking alongside films like Themba for thematic content and intensity. While it takes a while to adjust to the slow-burn nature of the visuals with longer shots, there's a refreshing simplicity, honesty and beauty to it all. It's a wonderful accomplishment, when you consider its constraints and a promising testament to passionate film-making.

The bottom line: Compelling

Talking Movies with Spling - Black Sea, Life of Crime and Ex Machina

Spling reviews <Black Sea, Life of Crime and Ex Machina as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

Top Ten Movies with... Charles Tertiens

Charles Tertiens was born in front of a live studio audience... metaphorically-speaking. The charismatic actor, comedy magician and personality is probably best known as a major brand ambassador, playing Karl Ahari, the lovable face of Kalahari.com, culminating in an epic ad campaign where he married Takealot's Dot after an elaborate sky-writing proposal. Before that you may remember him as the spandex-clad Cash Crusader superhero.

When he's not invading the ad break, he's performing in film, TV and on-stage as a magician. Tertiens has featured in Disgrace, Visa/Vie and I Now Pronounce You Black and White. He's played roles in TV series such as Bluestone 42, Interrogation Room, Known Gods and Montana, in which he played Victor Jordaan. He's presented TV shows like Hip2B2 and when he's not on-camera he's commanding the stage as a comedy magician or going full fight night with Jack Parow in a celebrity boxing match.

Charles Tertiens is a man who lives in-the-moment and we were excited to take one of those moments to get his Top Ten Movies interview...

"...I'm going to Hell for this one. Nuns, a tiger, a night club singer, drugs... [on Dark Habits]"

I can't watch movies without...

- My eyes open... I've tried to keep them closed once, but I could barely see a thing! Next I need to have an extra large box of butter popcorn that's lightly salted ... I'm not a fan of this artificial flavour powder puff stuff... I prefer the real deal, but beggars can't be choosers when not at home... and a bottle of water... I cannot watch a movie without a bottle of water.

Which famous people share your birthday?

- I'm ashamed to say, that I had to Google this. I opened the first website and didn't recognise a single person on the celebrity list! No offence celebrities, I probably wouldn’t recognise my own neighbour if I had to pass them on the street. I did notice some cute "Web Video Stars" not entirely sure if those are porn stars or not... So I might be sharing my birthday with porn stars? None of that matters 'cause Taylor Swift is a Sagittarius as well and that's all that counts.

What is the first film you remember watching?

- That would have been at the Goodwood drive-­in... long before Grand West Casino existed, that very land consisted of an ice rink, a large showgrounds for fairs and a drive-­in... ah the good old days. So for those of you who don't know the drive-in, there would be a few cartoons as previews followed by two main features. I was young, so I very rarely stayed awake for the second but I will never forget... the first movie that I remember watching was with my mom, dad and sister.

I'm actually getting very emotional now listening to the theme song to that very movie, Somewhere Out There. I used to sing it growing up all the time, I might not have had the words quite correct, but the tune was the same. I need to take a quick break... stupid onions, I do apologise... now where was I? Oh yes, the first movie that I remember watching was An American Tail. I was wedged between the seats of my dad's car made comfortable with blankets and pillows, eyes hypnotised by the gigantic screen out there beneath the pale moonlight.

What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

- Oef there are so many! I've had to dust through my movie collection to refresh my memory for this. One of the DVDs that stood out as a big no-no is Uninvited Guest no idea why it's in my collection. I'm assuming that it was a movie that came from my sister's stock. I need to shower just touching the DVD cover.

Which movies have made you tearful?

- This list is probably longer than the list of movies that I've ever watched. Yeah, I know that that seems pretty impossible, but believe me anything is possible with me. Ladder 49 would definitely be one of those movies that opened the flood gates.

Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?

- I shot Disgrace with John Malkovich, I think that that was probably one of my major career highlights. I remember being very scared on set, but John (yeah we are on a first name basis) was amazing. He is so down-to-earth and real; and he stood up for me as a fellow actor on set. Never once did I feel that there was a level of hierarchy.

What's your favourite movie line?

- So there's one thing that I always shout that comes from the movie Sweeney Todd it's not a line .. just a name .. “TOBY!!” The name Toby has become my "Wedwo".

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- No need to think about this one, Megamind! We're so alike people are often confusing the two of us ... I believe that as the stronger performer he'd definitely make Charles look good.

If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?

- This is quite the question. I really love stories about people and their journey. We often only see a certain part of a person's journey and then believe that we know them through and through. I would probably make a movie of an artist's journey. Maybe a magician, we've had several movies to do about magic, one that delved a little deeper than the glitz and glam was The Illusionist. So maybe a movie of a world famous magician and his/her actual journey, revealing what's under the make up and sequence. That would intrigue me.

Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...

- The Illusionist ...was released at the same time as The Prestige, but was kind of the underdog movie. Not many people actually know about it, but for me it was the better of the two. It has the essence of real magic.

- Sweeney Todd ...looove it! Toby!!

- Dark Habits ...I'm going to Hell for this one. Nuns, a tiger, a night club singer, drugs... just go and see it.

- Watchmen ...because everyone needs a good old-fashioned skop, skiet en donner movie and it just so happens that the Watchmen has REAL super heroes ;)

- Cool Runnings ...because everyone needs an easy feel-good movie. We are conditioned to think that winning is about beating your opponent, where for me in actual fact your only opponent should be yourself.

- Gangs of New York ...not sure if you've noticed by now, but I'm a fan of period pieces. Gangs of New York kind of reminds me of modern day politics.

- The Raven ...I love a good mystery and a serial killer using the creative works of a writer to plot his murders is genius. Another favourite of mine would be the classical action mystery of Sherlock Holmes also because he's a ninja and we like ninjas.

- Pursuit of Happyness ...who doesn't like a film based on a true story? It's another one of those that take you through the emotional rollercoaster and cements something that I believe in. No matter your dreams, if you are dedicated and focused you can achieve success, no matter your circumstances. Yet often it's easier for us to complain or shift blame, your life is in your own hands.

- Wanted ...it has lucky lips in it! What more do you need?

- Passengers Love the twist. everyone is searching for something, but at times we are searching too far and too hard, when we should actually be looking closer to find our truth.

Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.

Photo credits: Hannes van der Merwe (mic), Amy Tertiens (profile)

The Triggerfish Story Lab Explained...

Triggerfish, the animation studio that brought us Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba, have teamed up with The Department of Trade and Industry and The Walt Disney Company to unveil The Story Lab. The basic idea is that Triggerfish will be investing R44 million into The Story Lab over the next three years to give Africa's most talented storytellers and filmmakers the opportunity to develop their film and TV series screenplays into fully-fledged productions.

Shortlisted storytellers will take part in two weeks of workshops by leading Hollywood script consultants, Karl Iglesias and Pilar Alessandra. The selected Story Lab participants will also receive two weeks of mentoring at Disney's headquarters in Burbank, California and work alongside Triggerfish's network of mentors. For more information, visit triggerfish.co.za.

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