Noem My Skollie: Call Me Thief is the story of Abraham and the Young Ones, a small-time gang that were separated for two years by a dangerous stint in Pollsmoor prison. The film is loosely based on the life of screenwriter John W Fredericks, and marks a debut for director Daryne Joshua, with Dann-Jaques Mouton playing the title character.
It is the second film in which Mouton is playing a character named Abraham after his titular role in Jans Rautenbach’s Abraham and his likeable and sweet nature endears us to him, despite his rebellious path, making it easier to get through the nastier side of gang and prison life.
The film is set in 1960s Cape Town and the film-makers have gone to great lengths to recreate the life and times quite masterfully, giving Noem My Skollie an air of authenticity from production design to wardrobe and language.
Broadcasts on the wireless, props, fashion throwbacks, vehicles and a detailed depiction of life in the impoverished ganglands of the Cape Flats truly bring the era to life.
This environment is further grounded by language, slang and even tattoos, which weave the characters into the backdrop.
The story is reminiscent of City of God as we track the lives of four troubled youths played by Austin Rose, Ethan Patton, Joshua Vraagom and Valentino de Klerk, who resort to crime to protect themselves, pave their way and exorcise their demons.
It’s not quite as beautifully shot or realistic and doesn’t throb with the same life force as City of God, but it does have its own flavour with an ensemble of earnest performances that make it difficult to tell who’s acting and who’s reliving a chapter from their own lives.
The sincerity festers in this gritty prison drama as difficult-to-watch moments punctuate the film and create a taut and intense atmosphere.
Noem My Skollie is a captivating experience, which continues to fascinate with a charming lead and insightful behind-the-scenes drama from a man who witnessed much of what’s going on.
Characters AB and Gimba’s relationship goes through a series of twists and turns as the two gang “brothers” take different paths after committing a crime that lands them in jail. AB (Mouton) and Gimba (Kusch) have some fractious undercurrents, which hint at a much deeper history, while “Gums” is quite terrifying as a devious and psychotic gang leader in the cell.
What stops this authentic, honest and gritty crime drama from reaching true greatness is that the storytelling is scattershot.
We move from a sweeping multi-generational tale of blood brothers, into a gritty prison drama about a storyteller, onto a doomed romance for an ever-changing film that seems like it’s trying to unearth a character portrait.
In trying to check so many boxes, it compounds the running time, losing some edge in the process. While the story lacks focus, the film’s underlying quality, earnest nature and authenticity are strong enough to hold us captive. – www.spling.co.za