FOR the most part, our society, through the family as its nucleus, pretends that everything is ok while secretly suppressing the nature of reality as is. The family is caught up by a yearning for opulence as a mark of prestige and progress or the wish itself to have more, by far and large the in-escapable feature of modernity. Often awesomely this situation, the acquisition of material comfort that is, is erected to the ire of those closer to home, our family members. If it does not breed jealousy that drives a wedge between siblings it draws us together artificially due to the material benefit boons it heralds¶
In the Ferguson’s latest offering ‘The Gift’ we meet Bontle (Thembi Seete) an actress from Mafikeng who is married to a car dealer, Thabiso (Shona Ferguson). We gather that she has been approached for a role by a film making studio in Los Angeles, in the states, all seem well. What she does not know is that her husband is also a car highjacker specializing in BMW’s. As the story opens Thabiso together with his crew successfully highjack a blue BMW. This car will occupy the epicenter of this film’s narrative discourse. Back at his ‘reputable BMW dealership’ Thabiso finds Bontle ready to share with him the great news that she has been offered a job in LA. He is not happy about it. He’d prefer that they have children. All in all it is a tense couple that travels to Mafikeng for Christmas season later that day, though they manage to simmer this thorny issue down, it would once more resurface.
Bontle’s family is delighted to receive them when they arrive in North West. It is apparent that Bontle’s mother, Ousie Betty (Marah Louw), thinks very highly of her daughter and her husband. When Thabiso gives Bontle’s father, Ntate Motaung (Mlangeni Nawa) the Blue BMW as a gift for Christmas this drives Ousie Betty over the moon of what she thinks of her son in law, she flaunts him even at church. Ousie Betty is caught up in the status and prestige of her daughter that she doesn’t even notice that her husband is not really interested in the car. We begging to learn that this is not a perfect family as it appears on the surface. Bontle’s sister Dipuo (Tsholo Monedi), who is married to a mine worker, Patrick (Voyu Dabula), is considered a failure by her mother having fallen pregnant at the age of 18. Their uncle, Khumo (Moditle Boiki Pholo), is a drunkard with a loose tongue. He reveals, during the gentlemen’s drinking session that Chris (Mothusi Magano), a family friend and prominent police detective in Mafikeng, and Bontle were once intimate. This fuels further resentment to a fragile rapport that the discerning viewer will pick up on which exists between Thabiso and Chris obviously due to the common love interest. Words are exchanged between the two and the bout reveals Thabiso’s arrogance. Bontle admonishes him and in turn in a feat of anger Thabiso reveals that Bontle is going to LA. The family is taken aback by this especially her mother who also wishes she could have grand children.
On the next day Thabiso apologizes to the family and as the family forgives him Dipuo, tired of being the black sheep of the family, breaks the news that Bontle, whom everybody thinks highly of, fell pregnant when she was sixteen and with the help of their mother she had the child aborted. She had helped to nurse her back to health. She protests that she and her husband are never seen as anything good. Perhaps that’s why Bontle, the star child, can’t even fall pregnant, she declares. Suddenly the perfect family dynamic is upset and questions insinuate themselves within the family nucleus. The father of the house is distraught that his wife kept such a deep secret from him.
The discovery of a piece of glass in the BMW when Masego (Kagiso Madupe) and Chris take the car for a spin arouses Chris’s detective suspicions which puts him on the trail that will throw Thabiso into a doubt spotlight the more he digs. This second part of the narrative elevates this film unto a level of thriller as Chris gets closer to the truth. Meanhile Thabiso’s highjack syndicate goes awfully wrong and he has to do damage control. He kills 6-9 (Zolani Phakade), with Zakes (Vusi Twala) having been killed in a botched car high jacking and Sbu (David Johnson) at large. The turning point in the narrative, perhaps also the saddest moment, is when Thabiso also kills Masego who is overwhelmed into stunned silence unable to contain himself as he pieces it together for himself that his brother in law is a criminal confirming what Chris’s told him. This is a family drama that ends with a thrill as it shows us how things can go wrong when the family nucleus is disturbed.
The Gift continues the Ferguson’s crusade on their close scrutiny of our contemporary South African family when it is pitted against the demands and expectations of the world’s prying eyes. We’ve seen this concern in their telle novella, The Wild and their consistent drama series’ offering Rockville. The present work is shot with the same camera work intimacy characteristic of Rockville and the invasion of privacy approach or allow me to refine an expression I have used just now – ‘prying eyes perspective’ that has become characteristic of their work signature. There are moments you feel like you’re eaves dropping on what is being said or spying on what is happening when you view their work. While this film’s narrative is unoriginal, it is the flair with which perspective is given to the cracks of Motaung’s family as an organism that propels the film to stand its own ground in the annals of South African films; the work is freshen up in the way the cracks themselves are revealed and teased out from unexplored perspective. This perspective is the very deep seated conviction on how one sees and locate themselves within the family nucleus. The Ferguson’s The Gift delivers an interesting 4dEF’Points out of Five: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ /¶
© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2015