Atandwa Kani and Phuthi Nakene in The Suit
"A powerful metaphor for the impact of oppression on personal relationships" - Atandwa Kani and Phuthi Nakene in The Suit. (Image: The Suit on Facebook​)

The Suit, the first film adaptation of the classic South African short story by Can Themba, has been selected for the 25th Pan African Film Festival, taking place in Los Angeles from 9 to 20 February.

This follows a number of successes for short film - adapted and directed by up-and-coming filmmaker Jarryd Coetsee of Mandala Films - since launching on the international festival circuit just over six months ago.

It won the short film competition of the Africa in Motion Scotland African Film Festival in November, scooped the Audience Award at the Cape Town leg of the Shnit International Short Film Festival in October, and was an official selection of the Oscar-qualifying Urbanworld Film Festival in New York in September.

It also earned a Special Mention from the jury at the Zanzibar International Film Festival, where it had its African premiere in July.

The world's biggest Afrocentric film festival

The Pan African Film Festival is one of the largest gatherings of the African diaspora and the biggest Afrocentric film festival in the world.

"What a tremendous honour to share this story's relevant and transformative message on such a prestigious international platform," Coetsee said in a statement following the announcement of the film's selection last month.



"[This year] marks 50 years since the untimely death of Can Themba," Coetsee noted. "I think it's befitting that my film adaptation of his most famous short story will be honoured in the same year at such a prestigious festival celebrating people of diverse African heritage.

"I also look forward to bringing the story to a broader audience in South Africa as we memorialize his legacy."

Filmed in historic Johannesburg locations

Filmed in historic locations in Sophiatown, Johannesburg and set against the backdrop of the forced removal of "non-whites" from the thriving suburb during apartheid in the 1950s, The Suit harnesses some of South Africa's top acting talent to bring Can Themba's moving tale to life on the screen.

Award-winning actor Atandwa Kani plays the part of Philemon, the lawyer who finds his wife, Matilda - played by Phuthi Nakene - in bed with her lover. When the man flees, leaving his suit behind, Philemon punishes Matilda by making her treat the suit as an honoured guest and companion on their walks - even on their visits to church.

Atandwa is the son of renowned South African actor John Kani, who produced the stage version of The Suit and makes a cameo appearance alongside his son in the film as Mr Maphikela, the friend who breaks the news of Matilda's affair to Philemon.

'Even more universally relevant today'

"The Suit is perhaps more universally relevant today than it was in the 1950s," Coetsee said. "It is a powerful metaphor for the impact of oppression on personal relationships, and also explores how unforgiveness, intolerance and revenge are paradoxically self-destructive."

First published in 1963, The Suit is the best-known work by author and Drum magazine journalist Can Themba. It was banned in apartheid South Africa, along with all his other writings, after the authorities declared him a "statutory communist".

Mothobi Mutloatse and Barney Simon's stage adaptation of The Suit was first performed at Johannesburg's Market Theatre in 1994. A French translation/adaptation by playwright Marie-Hélène Estienne and British director Peter Brook, Le Costume, was first performed in Paris in 1999, followed by a revised version which toured the world between 1999 and 2014.

Source: staff reporter

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