Five Fingers for Marseilles premieres on 1Magic this weekend

Move over Magnificent Seven,the Five Fingers ride onto DStv on 1Magic today. Don’t miss this homegrown homage to the classic Western set in the rugged Eastern Cape. 

It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, cleaned up at the Africa Film Awards with five wins (including Best Film) and lit up the international film festival scene. Variety said the film “commands attention”, calling it “almost too entertaining for its own good,” and Birth.Movies.Death said it was “the best Western of the year, a must-see masterwork of story and craft.”

And the only surprising thing about that, is there isn’t already an entire internationally acclaimed bank of South African Western films, because the landscape, the characters and the storytellers of Mzansi are perfect for it.

Director Michael Matthews and screenwriter Sean Drummond have taken that gap by storm with Five Fingers, conveying an authentic African feel while still invoking all the hallmarks of the iconic gun-slinging spaghetti Westerns. The gritty contemporary Western broke South African box office records over its opening weekend, earning over half a million Rand and leaving the competition in the dust. Lauded by The New York Times as “stylish and entertaining”, Five Fingers is a powerful cinematic celebration of an enduring genre.

No country for old men

The craggy outcrops and tumbleweed-strewn plains surrounding Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape form the backdrop for this blistering tale of outlaws, revenge and justice, set in the small town of Marseilles and the attached community of Railway.

The Five Fingers are a fictional band of outlaws that fought against police brutality under the Apartheid regime. 20 years later, a disillusioned and empty Tau returns to Marseilles seeking peace and atonement, only to discover that his town is once again under threat, and this time his sinister foe lies much closer to home.

A new wave of African cinema

Internationally, the Western genre’s popularity has been on the upswing in recent years, with the likes of the Coen brothers and Quentin Tarantino taking a shot at putting their own unique stamp on a classic cinematic style.

In the style of a true Wild West saga, Matthews and Drummond set out to rope in the typical elements of a simmering narrative set off against inevitable destinies that the characters are born to fulfil, and set it in a wholly African time and place. And they fully succeeded.

The powerful cast includes Hamilton Dhlamini, Kenneth Nkosi, Zethu Dlomo, Warren Masemola, Dean Fourie, and Jerry Mofokeng. Charismatic lead, Vuyo Dabula, is unquestionably the perfect choice to headline such a story – fraught with resentment, blatant injustice, righteous retribution and, fittingly, a shootout to end all shootouts in the dusty streets of a small Eastern Cape town.

Good to know

Even locals won’t be blamed for thinking the title might refer to the French city of Marseilles. When the railroad steamed its way through the quiet South African platteland, villages that sprang up alongside it were often given European names, like the more well-known Parys (Paris), but we also have a Rome and, of course, Marseilles.

Five Fingers for Marseilles premieres on Friday 19 July on 1Magic (103) at 22:30