Johannesburg - Friday saw the nationwide release of Beyond the River, which stars screen veteran Grant Swanby alongside the talented young Lemogang Tsipa, who makes his debut lead appearance.
The film - based on Piers Cruickshank’s novel, Confluence, in which he tells the story of how he and Siseko Ntondini won gold in 2014 in one of the world’s most physically demanding sport events, the Dusi Canoe Marathon - will warm the hearts of South Africans.
The movie is brought to the screen by nongovernmental organisation Heartlines, which seeks to showcase homegrown stories that carry meaningful social messages. It’s produced by Quizzical Pictures, which brought us the delightful Nothing for Mahala.
Tsipa plays Duma, a struggling boy from Soweto who is striving for a future outside the township. Swanby plays Steve, an ageing Dusi gold medallist who has to grapple with his own challenges as he tries to stay in the game.
The supporting cast includes Israel Sipho Matseke Zulu, Mary Twala and Garth Breytenbach.
Duma and Steve form an unlikely yet necessary bond, where a process of growth and healing enables them to overcome difficult circumstances.
The film touches on topical issues such as cable theft, peer pressure, family separation, and the gap between the rich and the poor, and between black and white.
It may make some viewers uncomfortable because it points out certain realities that exist as a result of apartheid spatial planning – Duma lives in a shack with his father and younger sister; Steve lives in a house in a leafy suburb with his wife and dog.
Yet they have a shared mission – to win gold.
By getting to know each other better (Steve makes an impromptu visit to Duma’s house in the township), a process of teamwork and unity emerges, making the duo stronger.
Some may see it as a white saviour tale, but I didn’t.
Audiences can expect to see familiar landscapes in Soweto and KwaZulu-Natal.
It’s full of suspense, drama and a touch of comedy – all jam-packed into one amazing local production.