DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema
Johannesburg is a city of violence and shattered dreams where three very different migrant stories interlock - from the Cambridge Film Festival

A large city such as Johannesburg can be threatening and overwhelming not just for foreigners, but also for South African people coming from smaller and more remote places. The film begins on a train journey from the coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal to the largest city in the country. Three strangers are blithely unaware that their destinies will promptly weave into a dangerous fabric, and their mundane existence will morph into a far more eventful predicament.

The first character or this urban journey triptych is Zanele (Zimkhitha Nyoka), who’s taking a little girl to meet up with her mother. The second is Nkulu (Sibusiso Msimang), who has been tasked with bringing his father’s corpse back to his hometown for a burial close to his family. Thirdly, Nhlanhla (Sihle Xaba) moves to the big city in the hope to quickly amass large sums of money. Their plans almost immediately go awry, and they are caught up in a net of corruption, violence and criminality. The people who they meet seem to lack kindness and solidarity, and the trio too begins to change and adapt surprisingly fast.

Vaya has some shocking twists, absurd in their ruthlessness. Even the most vicious acts become trivial, in a city which has banalised greed, corruption and violence. You will hear about the most ludicrous reason ever for not being able to retrieve your father’s corpse for a funeral, and will see a hitman react to his job in the most unexpected way. In a nutshell, you will witness three naive souls descend into urban subversion. But will they get out of it? Will they embrace the changes?

The most spectacular element of Vaya is its cinematography. Smooth yet striking aerial shots of Johannesburg punctuate the narrative, reminding viewers of the grey and sterile environment in which the action takes place. Images of a landfill at the end of the movie deserve special mention. The photography of the actors is also very convincing, successfully capturing warm and vivid black skin plus profound and expressive dark eyes.

Vaya has its heart at the right place, and an interesting script, too. The problem is that the actors are not strong enough to support the convoluted narrative. It attempts to be some sort of South African gangster movie, with plenty of rap music, but it’s unlikely to have a strong appeal outside the continent. Or perhaps it will, at least at festivals. The South African gangster flick U-Carmen eKhayelitsha (Mark Dornford-May) snatched the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival 12 years ago. Which raises a recurring question: are films from countries such as South Africa and Brazil doomed to depict violence in order to be successful abroad?

Vaya showed at the 67th International Berlin Film Festival, when this piece was originally written. It premieres in the UK during at the Cambridge Film Festival, in October.

By Victor Fraga - 11-02-2017

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

DMovies Poll

Are the Oscars dirty enough for DMovies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the [Read More...]
Just a few years back, finding a film [Read More...]
A lot of British people would rather forget [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]
Sexual diversity is at the very heart of [Read More...]
Films quotes are very powerful not just because [Read More...]

Read More

ManHunt (Zhui bu)

John Woo

Jeremy Clarke - 17-10-2017

Celebrated Hong Kong director John Woo builds one incredible action set piece on another, perfectly integrating them into his visual storytelling and bravura cinematic style, this time set in Japan - a late addition from the BFI London Film Festival [Read More...]

Let the Corpses Tan (Laissez Bronzer les Cadavres)

Helene Cattet/ Bruno Forzani

Victor Fraga - 27-09-2017

Belgian duo create a colourful and plush tribute to the sexploitation genre, set somewhere in the sunny Mediterranean - from the BFI London Film Festival [Read More...]


Martin Hawie

Victor Fraga - 19-02-2016

The bull or the chicken? Impressive German gangster-'bromance' movie explores the underground of ethnic diversity and immigration in Germany [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *