Stream Sunu Gonera’s feel-good story of hope, dreams and BMX
South African drama movie Riding With Sugar follows one young man – Joshua (Charles Mnene) – as he shows how the will to live can conquer all.
So here’s the story: Joshua is a refugee living in South Africa. He’s trying to make a life for himself but he’s constantly tormented and haunted by the life he fled. Visions, nightmares, even the marks on his skin remind Joshua of things that he ran away from and the past he wants to forget. It’s a daily struggle, but he is determined to find salvation.
The problem is that he’s involved in a terrible car crash that destroys his dream of being a successful BMX champion. Pain is temporary, though, and Joshua gets help literally getting back on his feet and living his dream as a pedalling professional from Olivia (Simona Brown), a dancer who’s had life seemingly handed to her on a silver platter.
Meet the villain in Riding With Sugar
You can’t have a feel-good hero movie without a baddie and Hakeem Kae-Kazim fills those shoes perfectly. He plays the cruel, vindictive, controlling monster businessman Mambo. From the outside, Mambo is flashy and dressed to the nines in his suits with an expensive watch on his wrist. He takes in young refugees and African street kids who’re looking for safety while trying to start a life.
On the inside, Mambo is an abusive man who forces his “children” into a life of crime to line his pockets with gold and cash. He helps Joshua after his accident, then does everything in his will to break the young man.
Who’s who in Riding With Sugar
Riding With Sugar is written and directed by Sunu Gonera, the Zimbabwe-born producer who has won the Cannes Lions Gold Award, so he knows what he’s doing.
You’ll recognise a lot of the local actors, but obviously the lead three are the best known: Nigerian-born Hakeem has been in everything from Pirates Of The Caribbean to Deep State; Kenyan actor Charles has worked on British series including Casualty, The State and Young Wallander; and British actress Simona has been in shows like Roots, Kiss Me First and Grantchester.
Sunu Gonera’s activism
The film was shot pre-Covid lockdown so that wasn’t an issue. The biggest problem was reshoots and the final production, although Sunu says even that wasn’t too much strain: “I’ve always wanted to bring us Africans to the point where we say, ‘I have a place at this table, my dreams matter, my story matters, what I think matters.’ That’s a huge part of my activism. I feel we have to trust that we have the goods. [Shooting in Cape Town last summer] It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and also the most joyful. For us Africans the story is circular; the Western way is a straight line.”
(Did you know? Sunu filmed a 10-minute short in 2005 with the same title and theme, starring John Boyega of Star Wars fame.)