Multiple award-winning South African short film “The Suit” has been selected for two ground-breaking Canadian film festivals as it continues to impress audiences and critics across the globe.
Written and directed by Jarryd Coetsee and based on the acclaimed short story by Drum era journalist Can Themba, the film is part of the Official Selection of the Toronto Black Film Festival, and it was also chosen unanimously by the seven committee members of the Vancouver South African Film Festival. This follows on the film’s selection for the Pan-African Film Festival in Los Angeles which takes place in February. The film stars Tony Award-winner John Kani, his son Atandwa Kani and Phuthi Nakene.
Coetsee was unaware of the success of “The Suit” on the days that the shortlisted films were announced. “All we wanted was for the film to be shared with audiences at a few festivals. It came as such a lovely and pleasant surprise that “The Suit” has resonated in Canada. It’s a humbling experience and I’m truly grateful for this wonderful recognition.”
Set in the dusty township of 1950s Sophiatown, the story takes placed shortly before the apartheid regime removed the racially diverse residents by force and relocated them to the outskirts of Johannesburg to make way for white resettlement after Sophiatown was bulldozed and renamed Triomf, Afrikaans for Triumph. “The Suit” focuses on Philemon, who works for a white lawyer, and his wife, Matilda. One day, Philemon discovers Matilda in bed with her young lover. The lover flees, leaving behind his suit. Philemon decides to punish Matilda in a cruel way, by forcing her to treat her lover’s suit as if it were a person. She must serve it meals, take it for walks around the neighbourhood and seat it beside her at church. Philemon’s cruel punishment of Matilda leads to an astonishing climax.
Coetsee is inspired by the story’s progressive message. “”The Suit” is really a warning from the past to strive for positive change in the present. I look forward to sharing its transformative message with audiences in Canada in our fresh take on this beloved classic and showcasing the sterling work of our cast and crew.”
Founded by the Fabienne Colas Foundation, the 4th Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF) runs from the 15th – 19th February 2017 and is dedicated to giving unique voices in cinema the opportunity to present audiences with new ways of looking at the world. It is a dynamic, refreshing and audacious festival whose ambition is to encourage the development of the independent film industry and to promote more films on the reality of black people from around the world.
The 6th Vancouver South African Film Festival takes place from the 31st March – 2nd April 2017 and presents shorts, features and documentaries which entertain and inform by exploring the culture, history and politics of South Africa. The festival is organized entirely by volunteers and all proceeds go to the important work that Education Without Borders has been doing in South Africa since 2002.
On the success of the film in North America, Coetsee says: “South Africa is similar in many ways to the USA and Canada. Ours are violent contact-histories, from which pluralistic multi-cultural democracies have emerged. Our countries continue to grapple with a legacy of oppression, which is often more insidious than manifest. “The Suit” is relevant today because it is fundamentally concerned with the impact of oppression on personal relationships and the danger of the oppressed becoming the oppressor, through an easily relatable and very powerful allegory.”
Coetsee, who studied film-making in London on a scholarship from the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, decided to make the film while living in London during the onset of the Syrian migrant crisis and realizing the story’s global relevance. ““The Suit” has only been on the international film festival circuit for the past six months, so I’m really thrilled by its success thus far.”
The film was produced by Luke Sharland of Mandala Films in association with the National Film and Video Foundation and a partnership with AFDA. Apart from the years of painstaking research, Coetsee received guidance from the Sophiatown Heritage Centre and the film was shot in buildings that were spared from the demolition of Sophiatown which occurred in the wake of the forced removals.
“The Suit” won the Best Short Film competition of the Scotland African Film Festival which took place in Edinburgh and Glasgow late last year. It also scooped the Audience Award at the Cape Town leg of the Switzerland-based Shnit International Short Film Festival and was given a Special Mention by the jury of the Zanzibar International Film Festival. “The Suit” opened the Mauritius International Film Festival and was screened at the Red Bull Amaphiko Film Festival in Soweto.