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DIFF opening Night Film: The Tokoloshe

Olu Yomi Ososanya, Talent Press




The Tokoloshe (2018) is the feature debut of Director Jerome Pikwane who co-wrote the screenplay with Richard Kunzman. Tokoloshe in Zulu mythology is a dwarf like water spirit, considered mischievous and evil. The South African equivalent of the Bogeyman, used to frighten naughty and disobedient children.

The protagonist is Busi (Petronella Tshuma) , a young destitute woman with dangerously repressed emotions , desperate for work, starting a job as a cleaner at rundown hospital in Johannesburg. Even after her boss attempts to rape her, she can’t quit because she needs that job. It’s the only income she has to save her sister back home, from an abusive father.

In the hospital, Busi meets Gracie, a little girl, haunted by the Tokoloshe. From flashbacks we can see why she empathizes with Gracie’s trauma. But sometimes, we aren't quite sure which monsters are literal, metaphors or just creatures of Busi’s imagination.

Cinematographer, Trevor A Brown paints with light, brilliantly using shadows to show the Hopelessness of Busi's life, and shades of darkness to reinforce the danger her world. The sound design creates an incredible atmosphere to match.

Pikwane uses the Tokoloshe as an allegory for toxic masculinity and its effect on women; rape, abuse, violence. They’re the monsters lurking in every corner, keeping women on guard, making them look over their shoulder and walk a little faster. Everyday life for many women is a horror film.

If, Pikwane’s horror flick can make men realize this, watch their behaviour and tackle it in other men. That’s a good start.

DIFF runs from 13 to 23 July in various venues across Durban. Other screenings of Serpent during DIFF are as follows:

19 July | 19:00 | The Playhouse Theatre

This story emanates from the Talent Press, an initiative of Talents Durban in collaboration with FIPRESCI and the Goethe-Institut. The views of this article reflect the opinions of the film critic, reviewer Olu Yomi Ososanya.


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