|Brilliant chess prodigy Ricardo (Jezriel Skei)|
can't escape the influence of criminal gangs.
|A tattooed prison lifer knows all,|
because he's seen all and stays alive
with his constant hawk-like gaze.
Dir. Ian Gabriel
Starring: Brendon Daniels, Jezriel Skei, Abduragman Adams, Irshaad Ally, Lindiwe Matshikiza,
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Though over twenty years has passed since the dismantlement of racial segregation in South Africa, the brutality of the White minority's policy of Apartheid continues to assert its damaging effects over this country struggling to accept that the shackles are gone and that freedom is, sadly, a learned experience.
The repercussions of racism as official governance prior to the election of Nelson Mandela as President in 1994, forced poverty and crime to reign over certain segments of Black African society. This shameful blight, flagrantly and meretriciously foisted upon the nation's majority continues even today. The prisons overflow with black inmates whilst rival gangs, in front and behind the walls of incarceration, perpetuate a perverse self-identify through criminal activity, much of it against each other.
Ian Gabriel's finely crafted film Four Corners focuses on a handful of inter-connected characters as we follow the amalgamation of their individual stories into each other.
Farakhan (Brendon Daniels) is a General of a vicious gang. Upon his release from prison, he seeks to cut ties with the criminal organization, extract revenge upon the rival who murdered his father, reclaim his family home (now smack in the middle of the rivals' territory) and painstakingly seek out the son he's never met. Along the way he meets Leila (Lindiwe Matshikiza), a London-educated doctor who has returned to her Cape Flats home to settle her recently deceased father's estate. The couple are immediately attracted to each other, but their diametrically opposed worlds have the potential to drive a wedge between them.
Tito (Abduragman Adams) is a detective obsessed with solving the case of numerous missing children who might well be victims of a serial killer as opposed to gang warfare. He also takes a gently patriarchal interest and approach to keeping a watchful eye over Ricardo (Jezriel Skei), a fatherless teen chess master who is constantly faced with the inevitability of joining the criminal gang presided over by Gasant (Irshaad Ally), a handsome, power-hungry young crime baron whose mesmerist qualities are exactly what the doctor ordered to attract juveniles to the cause (whether they're "delinquent" or not).
It won't take long before these four disparate souls intersect and though there's a feeling that Four Corners (as harsh and brutal as much of it is) compares to being a kinder, gentler and more straightforward South African version of Amores perros by Mexican auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu, it never feels like homage, nor is it blatantly derivative. Given the poverty and corruption within both countries, it seems like a perfectly acceptable approach to telling its tale(s).
Four Corners also manages to achieve this without an accent on aping Iñárritu's cerebral qualities and especially in its favour is the film's lack of didactic qualities many other filmmakers on their sophomore effort might be prone to. Gabriel is a fine meat-and-potatoes director and clearly fulfills the promise he displayed with his first feature, the powerful Forgiveness from 2004. Here, he more than ably renders the solid screenplay (from his story) by Terence Hammond & Hofmeyr Scholtz which never blatantly references the effects of Apartheid, but certainly always keeps it present in the subtext.
If anything makes the film stand out from many other crime pictures of a multi-character structure is that at its core, the film is about family - seeking family and restoring family. This notion, so ever-present, touches all the characters and again, is tied to the slavery-like policies of Apartheid which did so much damage in separating people from their homes and those they loved.
There's a sense of melancholy and tragedy running through this beautifully acted film, but there are also touches of an eventual new world for all the characters and a strong sense that perhaps their children and their children's children will be the ultimate beneficiaries of their pain, struggles and sacrifices in a country still hurting from the hideous legislation of segregation and racism.
Four Corners is playing at the Niagara Integrated Film Festival (NIFF 2014). For tickets visit HERE.