A god-fearing woman finds herself in a transactional relationship as she tries to support her sick husband and daughter. ‘Five Tiger‘ (refers to fifty rand – equal to 0.20 USD) takes place in present day South Africa, but transcends any sense of time or location. A woman bites through blood, sweet and tears, while working hard in a field under the apocalyptic heat that pushes down on her. Living under the poverty line far beyond the high-rise city center of Johannesburg, things aren’t as simple as 9 to 5 jobs and going out for dinner. That privilege isn’t reserved for Fiona’s (Ayanda Seoka) family, but she will do anything to make sure her daughter and husband can live a comfortable life in this harsh world. Even if it means to live a life full of lies.

Nomawonga Khumalo‘s debut as a director couldn’t be more visually pleasing, as ‘Five Tiger‘ watches like an episode of actual experience, where fragile masculinity still overshadows a woman’s survival instinct. Rick Joaquim captures the achingly quiet peaceful scenery, as if we’re part of the story, always choosing an angle that’s either part of a service taking place underneath a tree or like a lion lurking at its prey from between the long grass. Brett Michael Innes proficiently edits the serene beauty that pairs well with Mark Kilian‘s (‘Official Secrets‘) remarkable score. The composer balances the silence that works as the background of this story, while his sounds flows like a warm summer breeze. Seoka works with barely any dialogue, perfectly allowing her body language to do the talking. A revelationary gnawing performance that stands as tall as the skyscrapers of Johannesburg.

Although Five Tiger approaches poverty quite gently, Fiona’s suffering still bleeds through in every shot. Muted from allowing any kind of feelings, the religious abuse that keeps her physically imprisoned, pushes her to throw aside her own self worth. Five Tiger benefits from multiple viewings, as its message sinks deeper with every rerun. A resolute first impression at Khumalo’s talent.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Short Film Review – ‘Five Tiger’

Reviewed online (screener provided by producer), October 1, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 10 min.

PRODUCTION: A Nostalgia Productions production. Producers: Paulo Areal, Schalk Willem Burger, Brett Michael Innes.

CREW: Director/screenplay: Nomawonga Khumalo. Editing: Brett Michael Innes. Cinematography: Rick Joaquim. Score: Mark Kilian.

WITH: Ayanda Seoka, Menzi Biyela, Fumani Shilubana, Khalalelo Makhanda.

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