Reviewed by Tiffany Markman, copywriter, editor and mom to an almost-three-year-old, who tries to balance her workaholism with cuddles, books, caffeine & reining in her intrinsic kugelry. Follow her on twitter.
So, Felix. NOT what I expected.
I’ll give you my initial take, my subsequent opinion and then my review. Deal?
Felix Xaba (Hlayani Junior Mabasa) is 13. His mom’s a domestic worker and he lives in a township, but he wins a scholarship to a larney private school where he sticks out like a raisin in mielie-pap because of his thick accent and lime-green school bag.
With a red pennywhistle glued to his lips, Felix dreams of being a famous saxophonist like his late dad, but his mother Lindiwe (the exquisite Linda Sokhulu) forbids it. So, while battling school bullies and making a motley crew of unlikely friends, Felix enlists the help of two of his dad’s old cronies (renowned SA muso Thapelo Mofokeng and actor Royston Stoffels) to prepare for the school jazz concert.
Sounds simplistic, right? Like a local Billy Elliott. The usual cutesy coming-of-age stuff,
right? With a dose of the traditional SA film themes and a happy ending.
Yes. And yes.
Buuut, there’s a bit more to it than that…
1. Like the music, which blew me away. Murray Anderson, the composer, explains, “It’s not just incidental in the background or about adding a layer of emotion. The actors are actually playing instruments on screen.” What’s more, Anderson composed over 40 pieces of original African jazz for Felix. And it’s lekker.
2. Like the young cast, who are almost all superlative actors. Especially Felix’s two younger siblings, Wiseman and Zanele (Elvis Mahomba and Okwethu Banisi), who steal the show with some of the best comedy timing I’ve seen on-screen.
3. Like the messages: the usual haves/have-nots themes, expressed in such real ways that they hit home. Watch out for some funny scenes with Minister Somebody, to whom Mr and Mrs White Privilege shamelessly suck up.
4. Oh, oh, oh – the cinematography. This film is magnificently shot by talented and award-winning DOP Natalie Haarhoff. Truly: each scene is a work of art.
5. Finally, Felix has won five different film awards that I know of, from the film festivals of Durban and London to those of Vancouver and Hamburg.
This film isn’t perfect. I didn’t lurve the script, which is a bit trite in parts. There are also a few strange elements; for instance, Lindiwe is very strict for the first 100 minutes – turfing her young son out of the house for disobeying her – and absolute weepy mush for the last 10. And one or two of the actors are a bit wooden.
But YOUR KIDS WILL LOVE IT. Serious. It’s such a treat to be able to recommend a film that is local, relevant and feel-good, and one you can discuss at the dinner table.
My advice? Take all littlies aged 5 and up. Or, go without them. Book now. It’s lovely.
Click here to find a cinema showing this movie over Heritage Day weekend.