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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

ISIBOSHWA -- DVD Review by Porfle

Another "Retro Afrika" release from IndiePix, ISIBOSHWA (1989) continues the effort to recover, restore, and re-release some of the neglected South African films produced for black audiences during apartheid which were on the verge of being lost. 

While some of these extremely low-budget, low-tech productions choose to imitate gun-blazing cop flicks or westerns, ISIBOSHWA is an extremely laidback and pleasingly pastoral tale of three teenage brothers on a lazy camping trip that's more like a chapter out of "Tom Sawyer" than anything else.

What gives it the kind of kick we're looking for is the fact that their chosen campsite is smack dab on top of some buried money, and the two bank robbers that stole it have been released from prison and are back to dig it up. 

The problem is, the three boys are a feisty bunch and have no intention of vacating their chosen campsite.

The first half of the film is about as leisurely-paced as any story that revolves around hiking, fishing, and swimming on a sunny summer day, as well as scaring the youngest brother, Keeper, with some spooky campfire tales at night.

Director Tonie van der Merwe (FISHY STONES, RICH GIRL) is much more in his competency zone here than in trying to emulate an episode of "Hawaii Five-O", and for those of us who remember childhood days like this, the nostalgia value itself allows us to enjoy it all right along with the three boys.

Eventually, however, there has to be a plot, and this kicks into gear when the bumbling bank robber played by Hector Mathanda (GONE CRAZY, FISHY STONES, UMBANGO, THE COMEDIANS) starts creeping around the campsite waiting for an opportunity to dig up the loot while his hotheaded partner Lucky (South African cinema's handsome leading man Innocent "Popo" Gumede) waits back at their camper truck getting more impatient by the minute.

Mathanda, who seems to be the most talented and ubiquitious actor in South African cinema, is as fascinating to watch as usual, hamming it up in a comical way even when he tries to intimidate the boys into packing up and getting out, which fails miserably when the boys prove difficult to sway. 

With this conflict fully under way, the second half of the film generates some dramatic tension that's suspenseful while still maintaining a lighthearted air.  While the two robbers try to terrorize the boys, they in turn derive inspiration from a mythical African warrior king as well as their own ingenuity in order to fight back.

Pleasantly diverting in the most low-key sort of way, ISIBOSHWA transcends its rock-bottom budget and production values by using its own simplicity as a virtue.  Mathanda and Gumede are watchable as always, and the three boys are likable and easy to identify with for anyone who loved a wilderness adventure as a kid.

Buy it at

Format: Color, NTSC
Language: English
Subtitles: English
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Not Rated
Studio: Indiepix Films
DVD Release Date: March 12, 2019
Run Time: 73 minutes
Bonus: Trailer


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