City Press is proud to host student reviews of the films on offer at the Durban International Film Festival. The students are postgraduates from the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Culture, Communication and Media Studies department.
Filmed in the picturesque setting of Cape Town, Felix is the first South African film in 12 years to be directed, shot and line-produced by women.
Director Roberta Durrant said that she deliberately chose a naive style of film making to complement the fable-like quality of the story. Written by the award-winning Shirley Johnson, it’s a coming-of-age story of courage, ambition and letting go, not only for Felix but also for his mother.
Felix Xaba (Hlani Jr Mabaso) is a young boy who is true and bold. Despite the disdain of his mother, Lindiwe (Linda Sokhulu), he will not give up on his dream to follow in his father’s footsteps as a jazz player. His unhindered passion gives Felix a childlike honesty that is an inspiration to young and old alike.
Felix is mesmerised by the legend he envisions of his late father, Zweli, a “Smoo-ooth” Saxophonist from the “Bozza Boys”.
Lindiwe associates jazz with seedy nightclubs, excessive drinking and ultimately with the devastating loss of her husband. She consoles herself with her church choir practices and her pride for Felix, who has landed a scholarship at a private school.
The snobs at his new school mock Felix who is, “NOCD – Not Our Class, Dear”. While he befriends a staunch guardian angel, January (Joshua Wyngaard) and a friendly scholarly boy, Pepys (Joseph Hughes), it is the prospect of a school concert that gives Felix a chance to contend with the best, even the bullies.
Finding that his powerful penny whistle playing is insufficient and that he needs to read music, Felix enlists the help of Bra Joe (Thapelo Mofokeng) and Fingers (Royston Stoffels) behind his mother’s back.
Roberta commented on the difficulty of casting the role of Felix and how Hlani stood out from the 400 auditions with his accordion and penny whistle skills.
Having never played the sax before, Hlani displays impressive skill in the film after just three months of training and his father who attended the screening on his behalf expressed his pride and joy at his son’s stellar performance.
Sokhulu is among the film’s truly skilled actors that make this film a worthy contender with any Hollywood blockbuster.
It’s a witty, well-executed feature that will entertain and inspire.
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