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By Phil Hall | April 9, 2005

This disappointing South African drama follows the paths of two 13-year-olds in the black township of Kayelitsha who discover a man’s body dumped on a railroad track. The larger and energetic boy, Sipho, takes a gun from the dead man’s suit while the smaller and calmer boy, Madiba, takes a video camera from his briefcase. Madiba hides the camera in a handmade wooden case designed to look like a camera, so as not to have it stolen. Yet he goes throughout the township and into neighboring Capetown filming everything in sight.

Needless to say, both objects shape the boys’ paths. Sipho turns to a life of street crime, running with a gang and getting hooked on sniffing glue. Madiba is encouraged to pursue filmmaking through an all-too-convenient encounter with a rich white girl named Estelle and her supportive music teacher (played by veteran French actor Jean-Pierre Cassel, whose presence in this small South African production is somewhat surprising).

There is a political subplot about Estelle’s obnoxious wealthy parents and their inability to shed their racist views in the post-apartheid South Africa. But the film feels more a contemporary Africanized version of those sticky, do-gooder “Afterschool Special” programs that used to play on American television in the 1970s. The lessons here (crime doesn’t pay, racism is bad, creative arts are good) are so obvious that one can predict the ending long before the closing credits ever show up — and the acting by the mostly juvenile and non-professional cast is so inadequate that the arrival of the closing credits is the only blessing here.

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