Five Fingers for Marseilles

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Director: Michael Matthews

Starring: Garth Breytenbach, Zethu Dlomo, Kenneth Fok

 

2017, South Africa, 120 Minutes, DCP

Distributor: Uncork'd Entertainment

Program Notes

If Stand By Me were a Western that began in apartheid South Africa, it might look like Five Fingers for Marseilles. That is to say that at the heart of Five Fingers for Marseilles is a story of boyhood friendship. The coming-of-age thread in this tale is cut short when an episode of violence shatters all traces of innocence and sets in motion a rebellion that leaves no party untouched. If Black Panther is a Hollywood reimagining of Africa, then Five Fingers for Marseilles is an African—South African to be precise—reimagining of the Western.

At present, corporate Hollywood sees dollar signs when it thinks about the representation of people of color. It is important as audience members (and filmmakers) to be clear about what types of representation we want to see. Assuming we all agree that tokenism is just the 21st century version of blackface and yellowface, we must actively seek out, support, and encourage films that don’t just RE-present but layer and explore the multitudes of meanings and reverberations in the frame. The audience is active! The audience can create space for the kind of cinema it wants to bring into being with the simple act of offering attention.

We present Five Fingers for Marseilles to you as part of a larger conversation. Rooted in the Western, there is the expected violence, machismo, caricature, and bravado in this tale, but as with the most skillful Westerns, there is also heart, forgiveness, social commentary, and a scarred melancholy filled with the awareness that violence is never a happy ending. (Keisha Nicole Knight)

 

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