I was hesitant going into Noem My Skollie. I’ve come to know drama films, especially those set in prison, to be too emotional. Either it’s a combination of extreme violence with gripping stories of intolerance like American History X, or tour-de-force dramas like The Shawshank Redemption that shake you to your very core, that make the genre.
I just didn’t think I was ready for a South Africanised version of these films. But Noem My Skollie is one of this year’s surprise releases, and it’s easy to see how it became the darling of the 2016 edition of kykNET’s Silverskermfees.
The story, set in the gang-ruled Cape Flats of the 1960s, has all the makings of a great prison drama. Innocence lost, an endearing love story, someone with the will to change their circumstances and an imaginative script. Noem My Skollie tells the story of four childhood friends who join a gang to protect themselves in the violent Cape Flats.
As they grow into adults, it’s the older AB (Dannjacques Mouton) and Gimba (Gantane Kusch) who get swept up into the prison system of Pollsmoor after being caught by police. Here, AB decides to use his abilities to tell stories to win over the trust of his fellow inmates. But the real drama kicks in when he is released from prison and faces the guillotine after being falsely accused of murder.
At its core, this is a story about values, and how you choose to carve your way in the world. It’s gripping, slick and well made. If you don’t shed huge Anime-sized tears by the end, you have no heart.