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
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.