This is my fourth post on the film Four Corners. In the first three, I reflected on an introduction, and then briefly outlined what I liked and disliked about the film. This being my fourth post, I will reflect on some of the truths and realities offered by the film. Gabriel had a point to raise and he did it well.
1. We are a product of the apartheid system
The displacement of people groupings and like so many other communities are products of the apartheid system that existed in South Africa prior to 1994. Communities such as those on the Cape Flats have yet to break free from the shackles of the past. We are a product of the successful implementation of oppression by our opressors. The oppressive system has shaped our community and have successfully shaped it out of proportion and caused it to be the unhealthy communities we now have on the Cape Flats. It’s a community that knows and experiences violence and despair, abuses of diseased proprtions, and poverty on a daily basis. I have lived through these realities in my family, my neighbours, my community and my school. It seems to me that we now have a culture of violence and despair and abuse and poverty and is so easily accepted as life.
2. We remain a product of a self-inflicting and perpetuating system
I often struggle with the dichotomy of nature versus nurture, which of these two have a more dominant effect on a person? Now I’m no psychologist but I am certain that while we have the capacity to decide on our actions, our nature, we are tremendously influenced by our surroundings, our nurture. Can we still say that we are who we are because of our circumstances and our pasts or that we are born this way and that we don’t have the capacity to change? Or is it that we don’t want to change? I once heard that one of the main reasons people don’t desire for success is because they don’t want to deal with the responsibilities that come with it. It’s much easier playing the victim than wanting to make something better of your life and in return having to have a responsibility to those who are still in the system. As Christians we believe we are born in sin and are born sinners, but who we become remains our decision despite the many influencers around us. We are not born as murderers and wholly evil because we remain created in God’s image with the capacity to respond to our circumstances and to make choices in life. There are too many examples of people who have survived this horrible system and has crafted a successful life despite living on the Cape Flats for people to say that we are caught and stuck in this system. Today we are our own oppressors.
3. Our community is in trouble
There can be no doubt or argue that our community is in trouble. Too often we read about gang violence in our communities. We read about our young people dropping out of schools, teenage girls falling pregnant, families breaking down, and crime is on the increase. I was both fortunate and yet uncomfortable to sit in the comedic act of Joey Rashdien and he made no beans about the fact of how dangerous the coloured community is. He even stated that the coloured community is worse and more dangerous than the wild life in the Pilansberg Game Reserve. Trevor Noah too comments in his comedic acts of the violent coloured community, and I often wonder if we perpetuate this image so that we can remain in focus and on public agendas?
How do we change a community? We change a community by changing the family! Therefore our primary focus in our communities should be families because that is where we can turn the tide and protect our young people from being prey to the system. Hopefully then we can no longer be the mockery of comedic acts and the definition of gang life and violence and abusers of narcotics. An often quoted Mahatma Ghandi may be fitting in “be the change you wish to see in the world”.
I eventually managed to watch the film “Four Corners.” The many “voices” of the film was violent, gory, depressing, hopeful, and sobering. It stirred within me anger, fear, and a strong urge to be an activist for the People of the Cape Flats. I am writing from the perspective of a coloured male who has known these realities growing up on the Cape Flats and being intimately familiar with violence, substance abuse and broken families that is being portrayed by the film. It setting is mostly in Manenberg, a township that is part of the Cape Flats which was designed by the apartheid government of South Africa used as a dumping ground for the coloured and black community. Most coloured people born and raised on the Cape Flats will be familiar or even identify with much of what was portrayed.
So in this first blog post, will I encourage you to watch it? Definitely yes. However, there are many moments that I felt Gabriel was speaking only about a part of the coloured community and not the whole. But that’s for subsequent posts.
First some background to the film “Four Corners”. The director, Ian Gabriel, a coloured man (or mixed-race if you want to be politically correct globally speaking) was born in Durban. As a film director, he has made quite an impact on both the local and international scene. Four Corners have been submitted for nomination for the Academy Awards in the “Best Foreign Language Film” category, the film also received the International Press Academy “Best Foreign Film” nomination, and the nomination for MBOISA (most beautiful object in South Africa). There is no doubt that the film has made a huge impact by conveying a story of a “forgotten world,” the world of the coloured community on the Cape Flats.
Gabriel attempts to draw four story lines of startling reality together that offers more than just a glimpse into the lives of the coloured community of the Cape Flats. His attempt is one to offer hope to people where it often seems lost or impossible (here’s an interview with Gabriel on Four Corners).
The four story lines which remain interconnected are as follows:
- Farakhan, an ex-prisoner who was a general in the 28 gang in Poolsmoor prison, a prison on the Cape Flats renowned for gang violence, wants to reform his life. He however first aims to avenge the death of his father and then track down his son, Ricardo, whom he has had no contact with since birth. Unfortunately, not-knowing he is on an automatic collision course with Gasant, a gang member from the rival 26 gang.
- A teenage boy, Ricardo, the son of the ex-prisoner and gang member, Farakhan, was raised by his grandmother as he has never known his parents. Ricardo is a chess prodigy but is being lured into the 26 gang by Gasant and has to prove himself worthy by ultimately killing his father, Farakhan. Unfortunately Ricardo does not know that the ex-gang member is his father and discovers it under unfortunate circumstances.
- A medical doctor, Leila, who was born on the Cape Flats and now lives in England having come back to South Africa to tie up loose ends due the death of her father. She is also the romantic counterpart of Farakhan before his imprisonment and becomes romantically involved with him once more. Her life soon becomes enthralled in the chaos that is all too familiar with that of the Cape Flats, and finally
- A police captain, Tito, who becomes involved in Ricardo’s life due to a serial killer. Tito becomes a sort of guardian angel to Ricardo while in search of the “station stranger,” a serial killer of young people. The “station stranger” is actually based on the real life event of the “station strangler” who’s victims were mainly boys on the Cape Flats during the years 1986-1994.
My series of blog posts will focus on the following:
- What I liked about the film,
- What I disliked about the film,
- The truths offered by the film, and
- The hope offered by the film.