Τhere are works of art that braves to tackle contemporary issues with verve and hold water while doing so and there are those that do exactly that within the confines of a small canvas scale, as far as cinematographic time accorded them is concerned, and manage to just get it perfect, leaving no loose ends and nuancing the demise or triumphs of the human spirit for us to think about. Thapelo Motloung’s Itshitshi (2017) fits snugly into the second paradigm

Still image from Itshitshi, Mnet's Mzansi Magi
Dawn Thandeka King as MaShenge and Nhlakanipho Mapumulo as Njomane in Thapelo Motloung’s film Itshitshi (2017).

It always interest me to see works that play around with idiomatic expressions. In a hindsight echo the idiom ‘the man is the head, the woman is the neck, because she can influence where the eyes looks’ can be collapsed to denote the present film under this pen’s review. A world of financial pressure is given to us wherein amidst a family business financial difficulty the wife, MaShenge (Dawn Thandeka King) compels her husband Njomane (Nhlakanipho Mapumulo) to see Nongoloz’omnyama, an Inyanga, to boost the prospects of their struggling business.

Nongoloz’omnyama’s familiar uMaliyavuza demands that a series of sacrifices be carried out in order that the family can prosper in turn he, speaking through the Inyanga, he demands the couple’s undivided obedience. He first demands the sacrifice of a chicken. The business starts to pick up somewhat, plus Njomane comes across a sizeable amount of money while on the way home at one point just at the outset of this relationship with the Inyanga. Next a goat is sacrificed, then a cow. Things starts to look good and the business starts to do well until uMaliyavuza demands the blood of a virgin.

»At this juncture in Motloung’s film a first cause for paucity is erected when our two protagonists starts to have a conflict as to whether they are prepared to kill a human being in order to continue to prosper and it is here that MaShenge emerges fully as the brains behind the man. Her ultimatum is that she is not prepared to give Njomane the child he desperately needs if they are not living comfortably. He concedes and a series of murderous acts are committed on the village maidens, specifically those who are virgins, to appease uMaliyavuza«

Unfortunately uMaliyavuza’s greed seem to grow with the couples material accumulation and soon he demands that Njomane’s child from his previous relationship, a child he denied because he did not trust that it was his, be sacrificed as well failing which all will perish that they have managed to acquire. This is a second paucity within the narrative and it brings unto the surface an existential paradigm in both Njomane and uMashenge. uMashenge will renounce any notions that her husband had of them having a child, it seems all she has ever wanted was just to live comfortably not to have children with Njomane. Njomane tracks and finds uMashandu (Nomsa Buthelezi) and his child but struggles to complete the task dictated by uMaliyavusa when it dawns on him that he has finally found the child he had always longed for.

Itshitshi is a brave interrogation of muti killings in our society. Above all else it is also a reflection on the nature of greed prevalent in us with regards to being successful as a people at any cost, let alone running businesses. It is an exquisitely made film with a balanced palette for its production design that does justice to the script it rests on. Nhlakanipho Mapumulo will win your heart as an animatedly soft empathetic Njomane and both Dawn Thandeka King and Nomsa Bthelezi respectively hold their positions as great talent this country has ever ushered to our screens. Yes you guessed it right I loved this film.

Thapelo Motloung’s Itshitshi delivers a near flawless 5dEF’Points out of Five: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦/

10 April

© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2018

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