The African continent has been, for many, many years, one of the most problematic places on Earth. In ages past, some of the biggest civilizations in the world had their beginning there, no wonder it is often called the cradle of humanity. However, for now, for hundreds of years the continent has been ravaged by external forces like the rising of colonization, and later resource exploitation from foreign corporations, but also the continent’s own internal struggles among their people.
Because of these, and many other factors, the African continent has been behind the curve in many aspects that have become daily realities everywhere else in the world. One of those aspects of human life that have been delayed in Africa is film. The film industry in Africa has been very slow to develop, but with the apparition of new technologies and the wonders of the internet, African filmmakers are ready to prove that they can compete in the international market.
Collision is a South African film directed by Fabien Martorell, and stars Langley Kirkwood, Tessa Jubber, and Zoey Sneedon. It tells the story of a corrupt businessman and his vain wife as they try to rescue their daughter from the clenches of a terrifying crime lord in the city of Johannesburg, The City of Gold.
Collision is just the latest example that Africa can compete in the international film market by being able to create mainstream films that can be enjoyed by a large number of people. Experimental indie films have always excited in the African continent, and for that matter in every other country in the world. However, creating a mainstream film asks for a different mentality and also a different level of resources that up to this moment has been far from the hands of filmmakers.
Now, thanks to production companies such as Netflix, African cinema is able to take that next step and offer a film that has the main goal of being entertaining. And when thinking in those regards, Collision, achieve its goal. Martorell is able to create tension, and also deliver on the action moments, when the story asks for it. Of course, we are not talking about a David Fincher-level thriller here, and the action doesn’t equal to something like the John Wick series. But the potential is there.
The film also offers very impressive performances, showing that the talent that exists in Africa is not only behind the camera, but also in front of it. Kirkwood. Vuyo Dabula for example kills it in the role of the crime lord, Bra Sol, who rules with an iron fist, and who steals basically every scene he is in. Kirkwood also does a good job as a corrupt businessman that for the first time finds himself not being in control of the situation he is in.
Sneedon on the other hand makes an impression in the role of Nicki, a bright young soul that gets trapped in a terrible situation. She serves as the middle point between cultures and social classes, which as the movie progresses becomes one of the most important themes in the movie. The social commentary is impressive and while it can be a bit overwhelming at points, especially for someone who doesn’t really understand the full context of the situation, it serves as a great teaching tool.
The exploration of the xenophobia that inhabits South Africa nowadays is one of those “look at yourself in the mirror” moments that might make the film hard to watch, but also makes it significant. We wouldn’t be surprised if, for the South African audience, this ends up being a very significant film. One that goes beyond being just entertainment and dares to tackle real issues that should be discussed and solved.
Visually, the movie has this guerrilla style filmmaking that drives energy into each scene, but that can also become too repetitive and boring when it is used in excess. Martorell really manages to do a lot with very little, and so his effort, and the effort of his team, is commendable. The city landscape really comes to life, and even if you have never been able to visit Johannesburg, the film makes a great picture of it.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the moment-to-moment of the plot, things can get a bit cliché, and also a bit predictable. The script has a hard time creating those wow moments that are so important nowadays. Because of this, the movie can feel a bit flat, and sadly, ends up being not very memorable when in comparison to other films in the Netflix library or anywhere else. The completion is hard, and while with these and other movies Africa proves it can enter the competition, it still doesn’t have what it takes to win it.
Collision offers to be a great distraction, and for about 90 minutes it manages to be just that. Thankfully, the movie goes beyond that and offers great social commentary on South Africa as a country, and so the movie starts working on several levels. Collision is a great first step in the right direction, and it can only go up from there.