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This Week's Must (Re)watch: Of Good Report

Jahmil X.T. Qubeka's outstanding direction, alongside a stellar cast which includes Tina Jaxa and Mothusi Magano, creates a palpable dread felt throughout the film
Thu, Dec 17, 2020

Directed by South African auteur Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, Of Good Report was released to controversy in 2013. Initially meant to be screened at the opening night of the 34th Durban International Film Festival, the screening was cancelled just four days before the festival, at the behest of the National Film and Video Foundation, which alleged that it contained scenes amounting to "child pornography".

This decision would later be successfully appealed by the film's producers, and as such, the film was unbanned.

Of Good Report is set against the communal backdrop of an unnamed township, and the plot revolves around the mysterious and reticent Parker Sithole, played with resounding prowess by Mothusi Magano. After serving in the military, he turns a new leaf and inexplicably becomes a high school teacher (who comes of good report, according to his references).

On a night out drinking at a local shebeen, he encounters one of his students – unbeknown to him at the time of their meeting – 16-year-old Nolitha Ngubane. Despite the realisation that they are student and teacher, the two proceed to embark on an illicit but short-lived whirlwind 'romance', which eventually devolves into unimaginable horror.

Told as a non-linear narrative, the story unfolds in a disoriented manner which is almost as disjointed as the life of the lead, Parker, who is as interesting as he is odd.

Adding to the cast is the seasoned Tina Jaxa, playing the role of the headmistress of the high school. Thobi Mkhwanazi plays the role of Squeeza, the well-meaning colleague and teacher at the high school, who seemingly has a fascination with her new colleague. Petronella Nontsikelelo Tshuma plays the role of Parker's object of obsession, Nolitha.

In classic film-noir style, the entire film is in black and white, adding to its dark, shadowy mystique. It is, however, the stellar direction of Qubeka that accentuates the picture to a thrilling treatise, which explores, among other things, the deeply distorted manifestation of black masculinity in a derelict post-apartheid South African township.

Through the character study of Parker Sithole – who hardly speaks for the duration of the film but is not mute – we get to see how poverty, war and the resultant post-traumatic stress disorder can all contribute to hopeless dysfunctionality, leading to an irreversible path of destruction.

Ultimately, Of Good Report is a purely South African paean paying homage to the film-noir genre, told with exceptional detail by a director standing on the shoulders of iconic filmmakers such as Orson Welles, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky.

Through form and technique, by way of its cinematography – black and white, dark, shadowy and rainy settings – and through its thematic layers of community (Parker's landlady's place in the community), toxic reliance (Parker's relationship with his dying mother and with Nolitha), and the nature of a complex man, it bodes well for a noir feature film.

A true testament of what daring filmmaking can achieve, despite the initial denunciation upon its release, Of Good Report went on to be the most nominated film at the 2014 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAAs) with 13 nominations, winning a total of five, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor. It also won Best Film at the eighth South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) in 2014, with Mothusi Magano once again winning the Best Actor award at the ceremony.