South Africa’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at last year’s Academy Awards was Ian Gabriel’s Four Corners. The Rainbow Nation is not traditionally a country particularly noted for its cinema, but post-Apartheid cinema has gradually been picking-up speed. The most notable success story is that of Neill Blomkamp, but there have been some lesser known highs such as Tsotsi, Yesterday and Life, Above All. Four Corners falls into the latter camp – an extremely feral coming of age drama and gang movie.
When former general Farakhan (Brendon Daniels) went to prison, the Four Corners had been run by his gang – the 28. He discovers upon release that the 26 have now taken over. Now reformed, he sets out to look for his son Ricardo (Jezriel Skei), a chess genius who is unaware of his father’s existence. Leila (Lindiwe Matshikiza), now a doctor in London, has returned to Cape Flats following the death of her father. As the 26 gang leader, Gasant (Irshaad Ally) sets his sights on recruiting Ricardo, Farakhan must fight to save his son whilst rekindling his childhood relationship with Leila.
Four Corners is one of the most feral and authentic gang-related dramas I’ve seen. There are great performances all round and everything feels so vital. Modern TV and cinema usually tends towards stylised portrayals of violence and organised crime, but Gabriel sticks with the nuts and bolts of life below the poverty line. The only bum note is Leila’s story, which feel slightly tagged-on. Four corners is vital and powerful filmmaking in a country whose problems seem infinite.
Four Corners is out in cinemas on Friday.