Emotionally gripping from start to finish, Cinema Nouveau has confirmed the release of the locally-produced drama, Necktie Youth, at its four sites and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas, from Friday, 25 September. As South Africa’s only art-house chain of cinemas, Cinema Nouveau continues to celebrate and support the local film industry. It is also fitting that this film, written and directed by award-winning director Sibs Shongwe-La Mer, releases on the circuit as the country celebrates National Heritage Day on 24 September.
A new wave of South African cinema has arrived and is winning awards at film festivals across the world. Young film directors are turning inwards and finding a new narrative on meaning and identity for the first free generation of post-Apartheid youth.
Urucu Media’s black-and-white drama, Necktie Youth, received top honours at the recent Durban International Film Festival (DIFF). Sibs Shongwe-La Mer was awarded as Best Director, with the film scooping the award for Best SA Feature Film at the festival. It has also swept awards and international acclaim in Berlin, New York and Sydney, and won the Jury Award at World Cinema Amsterdam.
“A boldness seldom seen in South African cinema…” – DIFF Jury
The disconnect of youth struggling to make sense of their emotions and the painful social reality in which they find themselves, is the focus of Necktie Youth. It is a story of sex, drugs and adolescent disconnect among the multi-racial elite of Joburg’s affluent Sandton suburb.
The film follows two young Johannesburg suburbanites, September (played by Sibs Shongwe-La Mer) and Jabz (Bonko Khoza), on a melancholic joyride through their suburban, post-apartheid reality. A suicide that haunts their loosely connected circle of friends anchors this portrait of gilded, affluent South African youth. A series of seemingly random events and colourful characters express sentiments shared by all the kids in the city: a desire for compassion and identity in large doses.
In Necktie Youth a new jaded, cosmopolitan generation emerges with identities that differ radically from those of their parents. They could be in any teenage wasteland of decadence and dystopia in the post-modern world. But they aren’t, and the painful complexities of their post-apartheid social reality just seem too much for them to bear.
The cultural disorientation of a young and privileged clique is powerfully told by the 23-year-old director. Using monochromatic cinematography and a dream-soaked narrative groove, it reflects the black-and-white style of the post-war European avant-garde: Godard, Truffaut and Fellini.
The film, which has been likened to Larry Clark’s Kids and the early work of black American filmmaker Spike Lee, has been described by one critic as “… the first really distinctive cinematic voice to emerge from a generation of young South Africans to whom the country’s post-democratic history is largely a second-hand abstraction…”.
“Where is the love and happiness?” asks September in Necktie Youth. “In 1995 the country was so new and beautiful and full of love. People believed in what they were supposed to be. We watched everything get less hopeful. Where now?“
Perhaps the South African youth – and its promising young film directors – are starting to show us.
“This is a film for the people of tomorrow…” – Cineurope
Necktie Youth releases at Cinema Nouveau theatres in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town and select Ster-Kinekor sites (including Sandton and Sterland) on Friday, 25 September. The running time of the film is 1hr 30mins, and it carries a 16LVD classification.