SA classic The Suit makes screen debut at DIFF 2016
Mon, 27 Jun 2016 11:31
Still from The Suit
Based on Can Themba’s iconic short story, The Suit, had its premiere at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) 2016 on 25 June. The South African classic has been adapted for the screen for the first time and directed by award-winning filmmaker Jarryd Coetsee.
Derived from the previously banned short story by South African investigative journalist and author Can Themba. The Suit is set in 1950s Sophiatown, Johannesburg, against the backdrop of the apartheid regime’s forced removals under the Group Areas Act. The film tells the story of Philemon who discovers his wife, Matilda, in bed with a lover. The lover flees, leaving behind his suit. Philemon devises a cruel punishment, by forcing Matilda to treat the suit as a guest who must eat with them, go on walks and accompany them to church. The story is a powerful metaphor for the impact of oppression on personal relationships. It also explores how unforgiveness, intolerance and revenge are paradoxically self-destructive.
The Suit features Naledi Theatre award winner Atandwa Kani as Philemon, rising star Phuthi Nakene as Matilda and Tony award-winner John Kani as Mr. Maphikela.
Themba’s short story was first published in the inaugural issue of the Classic, a South African literary journal, in 1963. Mothobi Mutloatse and Barney Simon adapted the story into a play by the same name, first presenting it in 1994 at Johannesburg’s Market Theatre. The short story has been studied at South African high schools. French playwright/screenwriter Marie-Hélène Estienne and leading British playwright Peter Brook presented their French translation/adaptation of the play, Le Costume, at Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris in 1999 and presented a new version in Paris in 2012. The play toured the world till 2014. South African screenwriter/director Jarryd Coetsee adapted and directed the first film version of The Suitand it was produced by the National Film and Video Foundation in association with Mandala Films in 2016.
The film was shot in original buildings in Sophiatown which survived the demolition following the forced removals. The Friends of the James Hall Transport Museum supplied a period bus which actually drove the Sophiatown route in the 1950s. Original and hand-made costumes were supplied by award-winning costume designer Pierre Vienings. Gallo Music has licensed several songs from the period by Spokes Mashiyane, who was one of the greatest pennywhistle artists to grace the South African kwela music scene in the 1950s, and along with Universal Music and Peer Music, Gallo has also licensed Billie Holiday’s legendary blues/jazz croon Strange Fruit.
The film was produced by Luke Sharland of Mandala Films and funded by the National Film and Video Foundation.