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By Merle Bertrand | November 13, 2005

Kate (Debbie Brown) is one of those people who simply seems to relate better to animals than to members of the opposite sex. The pretty and perky head of a Cape Town, South African animal shelter, Kate is embroiled in a wholly unsatisfying affair with a married man. As a result, she’s turned an unwitting blind eye to the crush her clinic’s vet, Morne (Morne Visser), a young widower, is developing on her. She does get along rather well with her assistant Sharifa (Quanita Adams), who’s desperately trying to get pregnant with her husband, Habib (David Isaacs).

Kate also befriends Thabo (Kamo Masilo), a young black boy, whose dog Tupac knows a variety of tricks, and whose mother Lindiwe (Nthati Moshesh), is pulling triple duty as a student, a mother, and a servant for a wealthy Afrikaner couple. When Kate hires Thabo and his dog to perform tricks at the shelter’s next adoption day, the young street hustler becomes a sort of linchpin when he befriends Jean Claude (Eriq Ebouaney), a proud and hardworking emigrant from The Congo. This, in turn, leads to a burgeoning relationship between Jean Claude and Lindiwe, despite the disapproval of Lindiwe’s mama (Lillian Dube), who’s got her heart set on her daughter marrying their Reverend (Yule Masiteng).

Whew! Got all that?

Yes, “Cape of Good Hope” is indeed a convoluted and tightly interwoven character ensemble, which is exactly why it’s also such a charming, yet not too syrupy films. Sure it’s a bit predictable, but director Mark Bamford does a nice job showcasing the “new” post-Apartheid South Africa which, as one might expect, is still very much a work in progress.

This is an unapologetically feel-good movie which, in the wrong hands, could have easily collapsed into a smarmy “Lifetime” soap opera. Thankfully, “Cape of Good Hope” offers up a refreshing change of pace in these gloomy and somber times. Full of engaging characters and offering a glimpse inside a country that’s slipped below our radar somewhat these days, “Cape of Good Hope” is a heartwarming, cleansing film that’s simply good for the soul.

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