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Review: Jozi

Updated: Mar 30, 2022

Director: Craig Freimond

Writers: Craig Freimond (screenplay), Robbie Thorpe (story)

Genre : Comedy

Cast: Carl Beukes, Lionel Newton, Jenna Dover, Nick Boraine, Lindiwe Matshikiza, Moshidi Motshegwa

Release year: 2010

Runtime : 101 min

James (Carl Beukes) is a comedic writer who loses the plot in the volatile city of Johannesburg and escapes into perilous drug use. Because of the dark, crime-ridden city, his family has even moved to Australia and his girlfriend (Jenna Dover) is on the brink of leaving him. On top of it all, he has lost his sense of humor, which is a crisis when that is your livelihood. His friends stage an intervention and convince him to go to rehab.

In rehab, he is confronted with some strange characters including Martin (Lionel Newton) who seems to take a special liking to him. After a short stay, he realizes that he wants his life back and returns to Johannesburg in order to try and fix things. We follow James as he tries to come to terms with Johannesburg and reclaim his funny bone.

The film has received a lot of criticism. Critics claim that it was made for white audiences. I will come to the film’s defense as I felt that in its own small way, it contributed to the South African film uprising. It remains comic without avoiding the grimmer South African realities like race and class.

I must say that although I am a sucker for dry comedy, I did sense a bit of cheese. I felt the scriptwriters skimmed a bit on the content. I have no problem with the wayward plot, but I was slightly put off by the flatness. With the risk of exposing myself as quixotic, I was disappointed with the romance aspect. Since it was such a hefty part of the script, a lot more should have been done with it. I’m not really sure what happened there since I thought the casting was appropriate and believable. Towards the end when James shows up at his lady’s door, they don’t kiss – they hug!!! What the fuck is that??? After all, we’re in Jo’burg, not preschool!

Regardless, it really was a laugh a minute. Carl Beukes pulled this role off. Props to the casting also. Although many of the actors are actually soap actors, they were supreme as a comedic cast. While South African big shots like Moshidi Motshegwa, Robert Whitehead, Abena Ayivor, Kagiso Lediga, Hamilton Dlamini, and Fiona Ramsey make cameos, they were all short and sweet and it worked.

This film is a refreshingly unexaggerated angle that is more relevant to everyday South Africans than to famously bloodthirsty foreign audiences. It isn’t specious. It says yes Jozi will swallow you whole, but the hardest part is swallowing it right back and finding a way to laugh about it.

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