Four Things We Cannot Say About Five Fingers For Marseilles

South African filmmakers are brilliant, the same can be said about those of Five Fingers For Marseilles. The Western film made its debut at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. Today, the film boasts making over R 500, 000 on its opening weekend and it is also scheduled to make its American debut in September.

The cast sports well known actors like Vuyo Dabula, the story’s protagonist, Mduduzi Mabaso, Warren Masemola, and Zethu Dlomo, among many others. Five Fingers For Marseilles, is a beautiful film worth watching in cinema;  and while there are some (valid) arguments against it, there are some things that we just can’t say.

“Marketing failed this film”


Vuyo Dabula, Michael Matthews, Sean Drummond, & Danilo Aquisto (left to right)

Saying the marketing of the film was a fail would be a stretch. The filmmakers and actors made the rounds in order to get public attention; such as interviews with radio stations, television talk show hosts, and speaking to journalists. By virtue of their successful box office opening weekend, the marketing strategy must have been great. At most, one could only hope they had better visibility in social channels.

In general, there are too many motivations to support local films that argue “You supported [X international film], so you should support [Five Fingers For Marseilles].” This has never been a good reason to support a film. When it comes to arts and entertainment in South Africa, “guilting” people into support only works to irritate them. In fact one Twitter user put it best:

“Five Fingers For Marseilles made complete sense throughout the film”


Vuyo “Tau” Dabula & Sean Drummond (left to right)

@fresh_Lezinto put it best, in his review, when he said “South African cinema has found a cheat code in terms of cinematography. The minute they shoot a movie in the mountain, it’s just amazing.” However visuals aren’t the only component of a film; especially a film that isn’t silent.

Unsurprisingly the subtitles used to translate the isiXhosa and Sesotho lines were underwhelming at best. English is a lazy tongue, so one can’t expect it to capture the richness and depth of African languages. However, there was a niggling feeling that there should have been more development of the English translation of the scripted lines. The most memorable monologue, in terms of its scripting, was that of Sepoko, the antagonist; which is disappointing because there were more characters the audience would have enjoyed engaging.

Moreover, there were select moments early on where a movie goer could find themselves lost. While this isn’t a train smash, it can take away from the experience when trying to piece together what happened. However, once the introduction passes, the plot makes sense in every way.

“I didn’t cry”


Zetu “Lerato” Dlomo & Hamilton “Sepoko” Dhlamini (left to right)

There were moments that tugged on the heartstrings, of course. There were moments of bearable grief, sure. But there were defining moments of pain and agony when watching the story of the Five Fingers of Marseilles. If tears don’t usually befall a movie goer’s cheeks during a heart-wrenching scene, this film in particular will see them fighting back tears with deep breaths and clenched teeth.

“Hamilton Dlamini did not steal the show”


Hamilton “Sepoko” Dhlamini

Many times, actors can make a caricature of the villain they are meant to play. Take Jared Leto’s performance of The Joker in Suicide Squad (2016), for instance. It is the villain who moves in such a way as to seem (almost) rational and loosely relatable that hits viewers in the chest. An amazing example of this is Vusi Kunene’s performance as Jack Mabaso on, the SABC1 soap opera, Generations.

In Five Fingers For Marseilles, the mere suggestion that Hamilton Dlamini didn’t give the performance of his life would be a lie and a half! Already, the character of Sepoko is rich with depth and metaphoric meaning. Then add to that the brilliance of Dlamini in bringing the character to life, alongside the powerhouse that is Warren Masemola, and you’ve got a performance worth a standing ovation.


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