JAGVELD (Hunting Ground)
With Leandie du Randt Bosch, Tim Theron, Neels van Jaarsveld, Bouwer Bosch, Danie Putter, Luan Jacobs, Edwin van der Walt, Tertius Meintjies
Written by Deon Meyer
Directed by Byron Davis
The Afrikaans feature film industry has seen a boom in recent years. But unfortunately it has been limited to light romantic comedies. So I was enthused when hearing about this thriller heading our way.
But after seeing it I was disappointed on various levels and found myself in the dilemma of whether I should overlook the flaws and give it a break due to the fact that the filmmakers are trying something different and the genre has not been attempted much in an Afrikaans milieu, or whether i should look at it in the greater scheme of things, side by side with international productions…
I'm still not sure, so I'll let it roll and see where this review heads (but can't betray my honesty).
Admittedly I've never read any Deon Meyer books. His Afrikaans thrillers are quite highly rated though and has a sizable fan base. Not all books necessarily translate well to the screen, and because you write successful novels, it doesn't mean you'll make a great screen writer… I support the advancement of local filmmaking and want to give all attempts a fair shake, but I really expected a bit more from this movie.
A young school teacher heads home for the holidays to the Karoo where her father awaits her arrival. On the way she crosses paths with a gang of six drug smugglers, witnessing a murder. They spot her and the chase is on through the arid Karoo landscape. They have more on their minds than just silencing her… While a pacifist, soon her killer survival instincts are revealed (illustrated with protracted flashbacks of her ex-military father training her as a child to protect her from the evil world).
It is the classic female-victim-rising-against-the-odds scenario, but falls in the trap of following cliche routes in too many areas.
Our main badguy has all the lame archaic staples reflecting an old school view of what a criminal villain must look like - greased hair (almost a ducktail), lonesome fake spider web tattoo in the neck, black leather jacket and… chewing a toothpick.
Then there is the nervous, newbie bumbling cousin acting as driver for the first time (kickstarting the whole dilemma at an illogical solo stereotypical cop traffic stop in the middle of nowhere).
Situations like the extremely old villain-licking-the-victim's-cheek scenario is simply inexcusable, and there is even a bit of Die Hard borrowing on the cards (re: walkie talkies & guns).
They should've employed Cosmesis prosthetics studio for some authentic gun shot wounds, as today you can't fool an audience with a mere red fake blood dot.
These themes have been shot thousands of times in various guises over the decades and needs a significant chage-up and twist to set it apart. For what Jagveld lacks in originality, it makes up for in the fact that it's an Afrikaans movie - but is that enough?
For someone who'd never seen this kind of movie, it could be a nail biter, the swearing may startle them coming from their favourite TV soap actors, and it may reflect a different perspective seeing the hunter-prey scenario played out in your own language.
This is Byron Davis' feature film directorial debut, working as editor on productions like Durban Poison and 100 Meter Leeuloop (which I've avoided successfully thus far! - not a fan of cheap culture stereotype bad comedy).
So, it looks like the movie's flaws
became the focus here... As a cinema enthusiast I love to sit and have a movie take me on its ride, not overthinking it, but unfortunately all of these things blatanly jumped out at me without provocation.
However, the performances aren't bad, it's nice to see some local landscapes and hear one of your indigenous languages in the cinema.
I'm a big supporter of female characters taking charge in action films, from Ripley in Alien to Alice in Resident Evil. South Africa doesn't have much of this, so this is a good start.
Stories of women fighting back against male bastards may well be an exploitation and drama staple, but remains an important narrative (if only to reflect reality). With all of this said, I would urge you to check out Jagveld (it does have English subtitles), and decide for yourself - but don't expect I Spit On Your Grave or Wolf Creek.
Kudos to them for making this though, as the play-it-safe trend of current Afrikaans movies need a bit of a shake-up and South African cinema lacks real genre variety and diversity (beyond its history of politically loaded Apartheid-era themes and hidden camera prank movies), and need more movie added to its archive of internationally recognized titles to be able to look back on without cringing -
If Neill Blomkamp's movies were funded here we could've added that to our local slate as direct home grown kick-ass South African filmmaking... ah, fuck it, let's just claim it anyway!
2 / C
- Paul Blom
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