Sure, it’s fun watching multi-million-dollar blockbusters on the big screen with your favourite actors blasting into space, fighting fantasy monsters in magical worlds or evil Nazis in the middle of World War II.
But what if we told you there were loads of local options, in your home language, that make those cinema films look ordinary? Believe it, because it’s true – and you can stream them straight to your living room thanks to streaming services like Showmax and Netflix, who’ve got enough local-and-lekker content to satisfy even the most hardcore film fan.
Here’s just a taste of what you’ll find on the two streaming sites…
Inxeba, 2017 (Showmax)
This movie had South Africa up in arms debating its content and how it was incorrect for a movie to visually expose a sacred tradition to outsiders. The tradition in question is initiation, where teenagers are sent to the mountains to perform rites and customs, be circumcised and return to their communities as men.
The movie won 14 awards internationally as far away as Taiwan and Sarasota in the US, and speaks to youngsters (and others) about things that are often swept under carpets and deemed taboo when in fact, there is nothing more important than exploring them – whether the elders accept it or not.
Kanarie, 2018 (Showmax)
The apartheid military was a very rough and difficult place for any young man because they were thrown headfirst into the deep-end of toxic masculinity. The bigger your muscles, the better. The bushier your beard, great. The meaner you were to anyone less masculine than you, spectacular.
And that’s a problem for Johan Niemand (Schalk Bezuidenhout) who’d prefer to dress up as his 80s pop icon Boy George in drag rather than shoot the “enemy” across the border.
Wonderlus, 2017 (Showmax)
Weddings are meant to be a celebration of love, but this movie looks at what’s more important: doing what’s right, or doing what’s right for you. The night before is a blur and the wedding party wake up hungover, battered and bruised, trying to remember what happened at the wedding reception and why.
And it’s not just one or two people – it’s everyone from the bride to the groom to the waitress who are trying to break free from the confines of their worlds. Yes, there are comedy elements, but this drama goes deeper and answers the questions so many people ask in their marriages.
Five Fingers for Marseilles, 2018 (Showmax)
This noir Western is set in the late 80s/early 90s and combines a mixture of genres into a melting pot of brilliance. Besides the stellar cast of SA acting superstars, the story it tells is more important in the current political climate than ever before.
It follows a small community in the middle of the sticks who are under siege from invaders who take everything in sight, from land to cattle, leaving decimation in their wake. Until the community fight back. A split timeframe shows events from the past and how those events have affected the post-apartheid world as a different fight for freedom rages on.
Die Stropers, 2019 (Showmax)
This critically acclaimed English-subtitled movie was released internationally with the title The Harvesters, and it’s a coming-of-age tale about a youngster who’s forced to confront his personal choices when his family take in a troubled young boy on their farm.
The fact that the core theme is never overtly said by the characters makes the journey more intricate and involved, drawing you in as the two teens grow closer.
Kalushi, 2016 (Netflix)
This biographical drama tells the story of freedom fighter and operative Solomon Mahlangu, who literally died fighting for what he believed in. It’s set during the 70s when the famous Soweto Student Uprising took place and follows the young Solomon as he discovers his place in history.
From being a member of armed militant group Umkhonto we Sizwe, to his acts of violence against his oppressors, to his death via hangman’s noose, Kalushi tells a story that many don’t know, despite it being an important part of South Africa’s history. It’s not an easy watch, filled with violence that is authentic and real, but it is one that needs to be watched for its important and significant message.
Catching Feelings, 2018 (Netflix)
This dark rom-com will have you laughing at serious things like alcoholism and affairs in a marriage. And not because they’re funny – but rather because of the situations that the characters (played by stars like writer/director Kagiso Lediga, Pearl Thusi, Loyiso Gola, Andrew Buckland and Akin Omotoso) find themselves in and how they deal with them.
It’s like a scratch-patch, as a young married black couple take in an ageing white author who, without meaning to, comes between the husband and wife, who’ve got very different coping mechanisms for the growing divide in their marriage.
Blitzpatrollie, 2013 (Netflix)
Sometimes you need to forget about the seriousness of the world, cut loose and have a proper laugh. And this is the local movie for you – because it’s got pretty much all of SA’s top comedians in lead roles as a squad of bumbling cops who are juggling tackling crime with their personal lives.
Can’t hit a criminal at 20 paces? It happens! Unable to give your mom the grandchild she desperately wants? That’s a problem! And making the mistake of losing the biggest haul of drugs in years? Ouch! Grab the popcorn, because SA’s most inept cops are heading your way.
Tsotsi, 2005 (Netflix)
This gangster crime thriller had the world talking in 2005 when it won the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film and catapulted its stars to international fame. A car-hijacker named Tsotsi shoots a woman during a job, speeding off in her car and discovering later that her baby is in the backseat.
The hardened criminal has two options: toss the tot and forget about it (which wouldn’t be out of the question), or do the somewhat right thing and take it home to safety to decide the baby’s fate. It’s an impossibly gripping movie that still has meaning in the world, more so because of South Africa’s descent into unforgiveable violence against women and children.