“Only cowards have no scars.”

Joshua (Charles Mnene) is a young refugee living in Cape Town, South Africa, in a halfway house type situation where he has to be on guard 24/7. He dreams of being a champion BMXer and to make something of himself. However, after getting hit by a car and janking up his knee, his dreams are put on hold while he heals.

Taken in by English professor Mambo (Hakeem Kae-Kazim), into a safer space with a group of other orphaned young boys, Joshua can begin to further his education while gaining strength back to his body. Joshua finds a new family after he lost his and starts letting others in. Eventually, he even finds romance with dancer Olivia (Simona Brown), and together they work towards finishing his high school education and look at a brighter future.

Based on a short film of the same name (featuring a young John Boyega), writer/director Sunu Gonera weaves a story of trauma and recovery. A young man who is a victim of circumstance is thrust into a life he is not prepared for and feels like he has to go through it alone. With his family dead and his future uncertain, we follow a kid who has to learn the hard way that the world is not a nice place. Plans can change, dreams can fade, but at the end of the day it’s the people who you surround yourself with that make surviving worth while.

Beautifully shot in South Africa and superbly acted by a talented bunch of young actors, this film reminds us that we should never stop aiming for the stars, but also not to be afraid to fall if they can’t be reached. If you say you’re going to do something, nothing will stop you from seeing it through, but don’t be fearful of the unknown. Never forget the traumatic events of the past as they mold who you become later.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

South African Film Festival 2021 will screen RIDING WITH SUGAR on May 22nd. Tickets and more information are available HERE

SAFF 2021 Review – Riding with Sugar

eviewed online (screener provided by publicist), May 17, 2021. Rating: MA15+. Running time: 106 min.

PRODUCTION: A Helena Springs Films, Shekinah Tribe production. Producers: Sunu Gonera, Helena Spring. 

CREW: Director/writer: Sunu Gonera. Cinematography: Rory O’Grady. Editing: Gordon Midgley.

CAST: Charles Mnene, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Simona Brown.

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