BY BILLY SUTER
IN THE modern world, where every middle-class child is told from day one that they’re special, can do anything and have everything, what happens when that child grows up and realises the painful truth that his parents lied?
This is the question director and writer Charlie Vundla ponders with his latest film, The Tribe, opening in South Africa on March 17, which also features him in a starring role.
He teams with actress and producer Terry Pheto in the new drama, a tale that explores the complexities of a troubled marriage.
The movie is about a young university professor (Vundla) who is saved from self-destruction by a former school mate, and begins a journey to rescue his house, his marriage and his life.
It marks the second time Vundla and Pheto are teaming on screen, following How to Steal 2 Million, an action movie written and directed by Vundla and starring Pheto, which was released in 2011.
This time around, Vundla, who directed, wrote and produced The Tribe, also makes a turn in front of the camera, in the lead role of Smanga.
Pheto, who made her acting debut in 2005 in the multi-award-winning Tsotsi, stars as Laura, his wife. She is a beautiful but troubled woman. Having often relied on her looks to get through life, she has complex self-worth issues.
“She married Smanga because he was the first to see that beyond her looks, she is an intelligent woman,” says a spokesman for the film’s publicity team.
“Coupled with her lingering depression, Smanga’s discovery that he is infertile leads Laura to seek other men out, so that she can build her fragile self-esteem.
“Smanga, a nerd at heart and an academic prodigy, is broken by Laura’s departure and he sinks into alcoholic oblivion.”
In the role of Smanga’s old friend, Jon, a golden boy with the gift of the gab, is Louis Roux.
“Jon has always been able to talk his way out of anything. A life coach by profession, he uses his looks and charm to wheedle himself into people’s lives.
“Having burned all his bridges, he is now living out of his car, but a chance encounter with Smanga offers a light at the end of the tunnel.
“Shortly after Jon moves in with Smanga, Laura returns and thus begins a unique living experiment.”
“I wanted to dig below the surface to find the failures inherent in middle-class entitlement,” explains Vundla.
“The Tribe is a realistic, character-driven story that examines what it is to be human through the universal struggle to survive when things don’t go our way, and we are forced to accept imperfections in ourselves and those around us.
“There’s also a focus on the dichotomy in relationships – the conflict between the need for autonomy versus dependence.:
The film has been screened at several festivals already, including the Toronto International Film Festival (official selection), Chicago International Film Festival, Africa International Film Festival (Best Actor award: Charlie Vundla), Pan African Film Festival: Los Angeles, Atlanta Film Festival, New York African Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, and the Raindance Film Festival in the UK.
The Tribe is produced by House Rising Pictures and Siascope, in association with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). It will be distributed in South Africa by Indigenous Film Distribution.
View the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7byyHZ0_Me0