Schuster, comedy… and rhino

A scene from Frank & Fearless, starring Leon Schuster and young Themba Ntuli. The film is set to reach South African cinemas on November 23. Picture by Dehan Janse van Rensburg.

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BY BILLY SUTER

JUST when you thought it safe to assume Leon Schuster might have run out of comic steam or fresh material, along comes another comedy movie starring the South African icon.

Frank & Fearless, scheduled to reach South African cinemas on November 23, is described as another mesh of slapstick and humorous social commentary, following in the wake of such Schuster successes as There’s a Zulu on My Stoep and Mr Bones.

The new film, according to a spokesman, sees Schuster and co-writer and director, Gray Hofmeyr, introducing a relevant and engrossing story, and a depth of emotion which sets it apart from anything else previously produced by these filmmakers.

Frank & Fearless was an extremely difficult movie to make, and the script by Gray, Geoff Newton and myself, was developed over four years,” explains Schuster in a press release.

“Gray and I worked together for the first time on Sweet and Short in 1991, and have made nine movies together since then. We are old troopers, and the one without the other is like a soldier going into battle without his rifle.

“We are confident that this latest offering tops all our previous efforts, and that the kids of this world, and their moms and dads, will be engrossed by this film,” adds Schuster, whose films are some of the highest-grossing local productions,.

Set in Africa, the new movie focuses on a loveable old man, Sonny Frank (Leon Schuster), and a 10-year-old, rural African boy called Fearless (Themba Ntuli).

They set out to kidnap the ambassador of a South-East Asian country in an attempt to stop rhino slaughter. They are joined on this mission by two four-legged friends –  Reini, a baby rhino whose mother was killed by poachers, and Fearless’s big, faithful, black dog… called Dog.

When things go terribly wrong, they have no choice but to take on a platoon of merciless poachers, who are led by a terrifying ranger turned poacher, Dolf (Kenneth Nkosi), with whom Sonny has a past.

The emotional heart of the film is said to stem from the characters’ individual journeys.

“Setting a comedy in a milieu as tragic as the rhino crisis was a controversial decision.  However, I believe that comedy and tragedy can run seamlessly side by side, complementing each other and enhancing the emotional rollercoaster ride, provided the performances and the story are 100% honest,” says Hofmeyr, who has not only been in the industry for decades, but has also won numerous awards for his work.

Leon Schuster is said to be on fine form  as an insecure Railways chef and collector of indigenous spices, while newcomer Themba Ntuli (Meerkat Maantuig) is said to also nails his role as a complex African child who is terrified of his own shadow.

Also featured in the film are Kenneth Nkosi (Tsotsi), Khanyi Mbau (Happiness is a Four Letter Word), Jennifer Steyn (Goodbye Bafana, Madam and Eve) and David Dennis (Soul City)/

Frank & Fearless was produced in association with M-Net, Chrome Films, the IDC and the DTI. It will be distributed and released by Filmfinity (Pty) Ltd.

“Our hope is that the message of this film will reach all the children of the world and encourage them to stop people killing our wild animals. Eating their body parts does not make you healthy, it makes you evil,” says Hofmeyr.

“Be a force for good. Save the wild animals of our world. My personal hope is that specifically the children of South-East Asia will see and love this film,” Hofmeyr adds.


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