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Wonder Boy for President: The hilarious political satire that should’ve opened DIFF

2016-06-18 13:59
Wonder Boy for President
Directed by John Barker

Starring: Kagiso Lediga, Thishiwe Ziqubu, Ntosh Madlingozi, Tony Miyambo, Loyiso Gola and John Vlismas

Emerging naked from the sea in the Eastern Cape, born to serve the masses with naïve wisdom, he is a township hero who is set to become the youthful saviour of the ANC.

The clean politician and everyman the people have been waiting for in these trying times of corruption and nepotism.

He is Wonder Boy and he is the new star of the Durban International Film Festival.

It’s all been very serious here at the country’s biggest film event, with a string of dramas leading up to the opening night. But on night two, the mood broke like a midsummer highveld storm and laughter rained down on the Playhouse.

 


Wonder Boy for President, a low-budget political satire in the style of a mockumentary, is as hilarious as it is astute and it is just what the doctor ordered – A belly laugh.

Yes, it can be seen as the same old shtick from South Africa’s funnymen (a who’s who of local comedy headed up by Kagiso Lediga and including Loyiso Gola, David Kibuuka, John Vlismas et al – with the rest, like David Kau, cheering from the auditorium) who first connected on the cult TV comedy the Pure Monate Show, but when the ensemble are in their groove they are a force to be reckoned with. And in their groove they are.

They shot the film on peanuts – R200 000 – over five years, working mostly on weekends, improvising the dialogue and pitching their strain of funny straight into the heart of election season.

There are so many comic assaults in any given scene that the unfunny and tropey ones slip past and the good gags hit home over and over, making 88 minutes fly by.

Tracing the Julius Malema arc, Wonder Boy (Lediga) is recruited by two corrupt youth league fixers at Luthuli House and he conquers the political playing field, falling in love with a DA youth league leader (a brilliant showing from Thishiwe Ziqubu) and falling from grace before returning to be ring leader of the political circus.

Wonder Boy didn’t have to work, but what propels it to excellence is a mixed bag of experience and craftsmanship.

The script is original and audacious, often playing out live at political events and rallies with real politicians unwittingly playing support roles – Helen Zille, President Jacob Zuma, Malema, Mmusi Maimane all get scenes.

The film’s unpacking of corruption as normative politics is timely (“Once people see you are eating, they see they too can eat,” say the excellently controlled and very funny fixers Ntosh Madlingozi and Tony Miyambo to justify their behaviour).

Saki Bergh’s brilliant editing is the glue that holds the piece together, along with a set of Forrest Gumpian title cards with proverbs (A single bracelet does not jingle; A fight between grasshoppers is a joy to the crow).

John Barker has set the film to the delicious strains of isicathamiya and mbube and finally proven his mettle in the feature market.

The film is going to be a huge hit when it opens at cinemas in July – unlike the multimillion rand Blitz Patrollie and other attempts at comedy blockbusters – even though it was made on love, savvy and elbow grease.

Why it wasn’t chosen to open the festival is beyond me. It’s fierce, funny and brave and easily the best of the fest so far.

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August 13 2017