The sport itself originated in the Soweto township as a way for gangsters to blow off steam after the loss of their friends and usually involved carjackings and unsafe driving over public roads. Over the years, though, it drew enough of an audience to be nationally sanctioned by Motorsport SA (South Africa’s motorsport regulator) and sell out arenas. Nkosi tells this story through several voices whose names are synonymous with spinning. From drivers and their teams to one of the largest promoters, a young female rising star and Vic Pardal, the energetic emcee of these events who evokes a Zen mentality when he calmly explains that, “Spinning is the intricate balance of trying to control chaos.”
Through Nkosi’s footage and interviews, we get to know the people behind spinning who live for it day by day, and we come to understand that, just like football, baseball, and basketball on our side of the pond, this is a way of life. Rather than sit in judgment of a potentially life-threatening entertainment, we become engaged in it and feel the excitement and passion of the subjects. After all, it can’t really be as dangerous as it seems, right?
“…has succeeded in educating us about South Africa’s hidden pastime.”
Unfortunately, the film completely ignores the subject of danger in favor of a rose-tinted view of the sport. If there ever have been any casualties, the film does not address them, which not only disservices the viewer, but also those who may have lost their lives in the spinning arenas. To be fair, an internet search turns up nothing in the way of death tolls, which may be entirely accurate, considering several articles claim the cars rarely go faster than 35 MPH. Still, in not addressing the subject at all, Nkosi seems like he’s purposefully ignoring the danger.
Ultimately, you may watch An Ordinary People and think spinning is just useless daredevil theatrics. Conversely, you may fully appreciate the balls it takes to do what these adrenaline-junkies live for every day. Either way, Ernest Nkosi has succeeded in educating us about South Africa’s hidden pastime.
An Ordinary People screened at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…it can't really be as dangerous as it seems, right?"