The SAFTAs have announced their latest winners and, I'm sorry to say, I find them somewhat underwhelming. Kudos to the entertaining and skillfully made films that were honoured, but I must contest a few of the winners.
No director other than Katinka Heyns has any real right to the award this year. She's a national treasure and every one of her films is a landmark in South African cinema. At least her husband, Chris Barnard, took home a well-deserved statuette for his elegant, enigmatic screenplay.
Die Wonderwerker seemed an obvious pick for Best Feature Film, as it is simply one of the most impressive South African films in years, but if the Eugene Marais Africana biopic seems too stuffy a choice, and too Afrikaans, there's solid drama in Otelo Burning, or good genre filmmaking in Semi-Soet. Material straddles the difficult line between drama and comedy and, though it has some great moments, it never really takes off as either.
At the end of the day, I'm presuming Material's win has much to do with it's decent box office and cross-cultural appeal (far too much South African cinema seems aimed at a racial demographic). While Material is an enjoyable enough film - and Vincent Ebrahim's performance as Cassim's proud, traditional father is clearly a deserving winner - it has too many parts that fall flat (most of the non-stand up comedy, the Zoo Lake hi jinx in particular) or under perform (Cassim's romance lacks some serious sizzle) to be hailed the best South African film of the year. Nonetheless, it's not a bad film.
More bizarre is Riaad Moosa's win as Best Actor. Not merely because Dawid Minnaar is exceptional as Eugene Marais in Die Wonderwerker, but because Moosa's performance is easily the weakest thing about Material. While clearly a talented stand up comedian and a very easy guy to like, he lacks the charisma and gravitas to carry the film - through its funny or serious bits - and the film struggles because of it. Odd choice.
For Supporting Actress, Denise Newman must have been a formidable contender, and a twin statue for the Material parents - collectively the best thing about the film by far - would have been awesome. But congratulations to Matshepo Maleme for A Million Colours regardless.
I also happen to find Elize Cawood's performance as Maria one of the best of the year, locally or internationally, but I have no reason to contest Lindiwe Ndlovu's Best Actress victory for Little One.
Beyond that, it's easy to see how slickly produced Semi-Soet and period Afrikaans musical Pretville cleared out most of the remaining technical awards.
Here are the Film nominees and winners:
Best Feature Film: Die Wonderwerker (The Miracle Worker) - Sonneblom Ateljees (Pty) Ltd *Material - Zukrafin Pty Ltd Otelo Burning - Cinga Productions Semi-Soet - Scramble Productions Best Director of a Feature Film: Katinka Heyns - Die Wonderwerker (The Miracle Worker) *Craig Freimond - Material Wayne Thornley - Adventures in Zambezia Darrell James Roodt - Little One Best Actor in a Feature Film: Thomas Gumede as Year One in Otelo Burning Nico Panagio as JP in Semi-Soet Jack Devnarain as Ronnie in 31 Million Reasons Dawid Minnaar as Eugene in Die Wonderwerker *Riaad MOosa as Cassim in Material Best Actress in a Feature Film: *Lindiwe Ndlovu as Pauline in Little One Nolwazi Shange as Dezi in Otelo Burning Javashree Basava as Padme in Lucky Eliza Cawood as Maria in Die Wonderwerker Best Supporting Actor in a Feature Film: Mpho Osei-Tutu as Dezi in Otelo Burning *Vincent Ebrahim as Ebrahim in Material Louw Venter as Hertjie in Semi-Soet Marius Weyers as Gys in Die Wonderwerker Best Supporting Actress in a Feature Film: Denise Newman as Fatima in Material *Matshepo Maleme as Busi in A Million Colours Anneke Weidemann as Jane in Die Wonderwerker
Best Writing Team of a Feature Film *Chris Barnard - Die Wonderwerker Craig Freimond - Material James Whyle and the cast workshop - Otelo
Burning Darrell James Roodt - Little One
Best Cinematographer of a Feature Film Koos Roets - Die Wonderwerker *Trevor Brown - A Million Colours Trevor Calverley - Material
Best Editor of a Feature Film *Ronelle Loots - Die Wonderwerker Aryan Kaganof - Man on Ground Megan Gill - Material
Best Production Designer of a Feature Film Francois Coetzee - Semi-Soet Jackie Lotz - Zama Zama Anita van Hermet, Chantal Carter - Otelo Burning *Bathoni Robinson - Pretville
Best Music Composition *Orangotang Music and Michael Bester - Semi-Soet Zethu Mashika - Zama Zama Tiago Correia Paulo, Alan Lazar - Otelo Burning Bruce Retief - Adventures in Zambezia
Best Costume Designer *Nerine Pienaar - Semi-Soet Mia Zwiegers - Zama Zama Ruy Filipe - Otelo Burning Nerine Pienaar - Pretville
Best Make up/Hair Stylist Theola Booyens - Semi-Soet Elzette Winterbach - To the Power of Anne Charlie Runge, Lee-Anne Nourse - Pretville
Best Sound Designer of a Feature Film Barry Donnelly - Die Wonderwerker Jim Petrak - Semi-Soet *Charlotte Buys - Material
Best Student Film E-lectricity - AFDA: Etienne Fourie, Robyn Oetle LYFSTRAF - AFDA: Rudi Steyn, Martina Della
Togna, Gianfranco Human, Sarah Muhoho *Die Windpomp - AFDA: Miklas Manneke, Jade Galbraith
Best Short Film *Umkhungo - Matthew Jankes Loot - Greg Rom There are no Heroes - Kyle Stevenson
Best Animation I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts - Jungle
Beat Sunrise Productions *Adventures In Zambezia - Triggerfish Animation
Studios ZA NEWS - Both Worlds
Jonny Greenwood's second collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson may be a less piercingly intense experience than its predecessor, but it's no less broody or brilliant. Feeling like a free jazz exploration of the loose-limbed but tightly coiled tensions that hold Joaquin Phoenix's Freddie Quell together, Greenwood's score is a restrained, integral part of Anderson's enigmatic film.
2. Dan Romer & Benh Zeitlin - Beasts of the Southern Wild
The perfect score for a film of incredible creativity and poetry. Writer / director / composer Benh Zeitlin's creative ambition alone is hard to resist, but this is one of the year's very best scores in its own right. There are probably more interesting tracks to post than this - which any avid watcher of the trailer will recognise - but try to resist Once There was a Hushpuppy. Try. You can't.
3. Alexandre Desplat - Zero Dark Thirty
Alexandre Desplat scored no less than nine films, including two Best Picture nominees, in 2012 and it's massively to his credit that he managed two distinct scores for middle eastern CIA thrillers in the same year. He was nominated for the more upbeat, at times sentimental, Argo which is effective, but not nearly as mesmerising as his sparse, eerie score for Zero Dark Thirty; a key element to the measured pacing of Kathryn Bigelow's slow, tense procedural thriller. Maya on Plane is the emotional climax of the score, beautifully bringing together its themes.
4. Alexandre Desplat - Moonrise Kingdom
Desplat's other best work of the year lies in his second collaboration with cult indie aesthetist Wes Anderson. Miles from his playful work on Fantastic Mr Fox, his full-bodied orchestral score provides the climatic catharsis that sets Moonrise Kingdom's emotional impactapart from previous, subtler Anderson outings.
5. Thomas Newman - Skyfall
Thomas Newman is an eternal innovator; always digging up new textures, new angles and new instruments with which to deliver his unique, layered scores. With legendary scores for Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty, American Beauty, American Beauty, WallE & American Beauty to his name, it's a shame he's the most nominated composer at the Academy Awards never to take home the prize (the spiritual cousin of Cinematographer Roger Deakins, also Oscarless for Shawshank Redemption & Skyfall). Skyfall charts fresh electronic ground for Newman and is, obviously, already one of the classiest action scores around.
6. John Williams - Lincoln
I'm frankly surprised just how much I liked John Williams' Lincoln score. Alternating restrained, simple dignity that makes me feel like President Bartlett is about to something awesome on The West Wing with bouncy banjo & violin ditties that bring to mind old-timey hayrides and line dancing.It's authentic-feeling stuff that just makes you want to hug Daniel Day-Lewis.
7. Dario Marianelli - Anna Karenina
I love everything Marianelli has done with Joe Wright, and his sumptuous, inventive work here is no exception. With the first half of Anna Karenina playing like a casual ballet of sorts, Marianelli's score does much of the heavy lifting to create the momentum that draws us into Anna Karenina's eccentric stylings.
8. Mychael Danna - Life of Pi
Something inside me just rebels against recognising the Oscar winner (which is just ridiculously contrary of me), but Mychael Danna's Life of Pi is in all fairness a lovely score of Parisian Indian whimsy & epic, soul searching magic.
9. Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek & Tom Twykwer - Cloud Atlas
The Cloud Atlas Sextet is written into the script and is a key piece of the puzzle that connects "everything"; plenty of pressure on the composers, then, to deliver a suitably striking piece of music that could believably haunt the minds of the film's characters. The film itself covers a vast, ambitious array of landscapes and emotions, which the score gamely and effectively follows.
10. Ryan Miller - Safety not Guaranteed
This sweet indie charmer has a solid indie rock score from Ryan Miller, but this song, which is an original composition for the film, just kills me. Both the version Mark Duplass performs in the film and the fully produced version over the credits. Mild spoiler alert.