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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

FISHY STONES -- DVD Review by Porfle

Here's another of the South African apartheid-era films, made for black audiences, which are now being rescued from oblivion, restored, and released by IndiePix Films. 

As with the others I've recently seen, FISHY STONES (1990) is a low-budget affair that falls squarely into the category of films that I enjoy because they show filmmakers with severely limited resources doing their best to come up with something entertaining.

Here, it's director Tonie van der Merwe (UMBANGO, OPERATION HIT SQUAD) again, concocting a modest comedy/drama about two diamond thieves (Popo Gumede and Hector Mathanda of UMBANGO as "Robert" and "Makhosi") who must toss their bag of "fishy stones" out the window during a police chase in hopes of returning later to recover it. 

The diamonds are later discovered by David and Alex, two teenage boys on a camping trip.  When Robert and Makhosi escape from jail and return to find their diamonds missing, they descend upon the hapless young boys with threats and intimidation.  The rest of the film is a back-and-forth conflict between the two good guys and two bad guys with the missing diamonds in the balance.

Tonie van der Merwe's direction is passable and occasionally imaginative as it was in UMBANGO. The film even opens with a nifty car chase between the two diamond thieves and the local cops, with some well-rendered "poor man's process" shots.

The rest of the story takes place almost entirely in economical outdoor locations, mainly the forest where the two boys stumble across the bag of diamonds while camping out.

Diamond thieves Robert and Makhosi are, respectively, the handsome brains of the duo and its extremely low-I.Q. comic relief.  As Makhosi, the manic, gap-toothed Hector Mathanda (who also plays a mad bomber in GONE CRAZY) ably conveys a sort of sublime idiocy that helps turn most of their scenes together into amusing comedy routines even when they're at their most desperate.

While spying on David and Alex's camp, it's funny to listen to the two crooks argue about who's going to watch which boy (Makhosi claims that since he has smaller eyes, he can see the skinny boy better and thus Robert should keep watch on the fat one). 

They also fight over whose diamonds they are ("My diamonds! Mine!" the childish, intellectually-challenged Makhosi keeps insisting), finally turning on each other and wrestling for their only gun.

After the action of the first act, FISHY STONES settles into a leisurely pace that doesn't generate all that much suspense but does keep us interested in how things will eventually turn out. 

Some will find the long stretches of dialogue and meandering bits of business boring, with David and Alex lying around their camp hashing over what they're going to do with the diamonds (most likely they'll turn them in to the police) as Robert and Makhosi argue endlessly and get on each other's nerves while lurking in the bushes.

As for me, I managed to settle into FISHY STONES' modest groove and enjoy it as a likably low-key and ultimately harmless adventure that goes down easy. 


Actors: Popo Gumede, Hector Mathanda, Mandla Ngoya
Format: Color, NTSC
Language: Zulu w/ English Subtitles
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Rated: NR
Studio: Indiepix Films
Extras: Trailer


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