How A South African Film Inspires Hope In The Face Of Adversity

When you see powerhouse names in movie credits, you know definitely you’re in for a treat.

The coming-of-age movie, Riding with Sugar, ostensibly explores the hardships of many Zimbabweans through the prism of a young boy, whose life is full of dramatic and remarkable escapes.

The film tells the story of a young refugee, Joshua (British-Kenyan actor Charles Mnene), who dreams of winning a BMX cycling championship as a means of finding a better life. But a devastating accident shatters his dream. Mambo (Hakeem Kae-Kazeem) who houses refugee teenagers from across Africa, then gives him shelter and a job and also encourages Joshua to use education to make a better life for himself. Mambo is also a foreigner.

Also, in his quest for finding happiness and belonging, Joshua discovers love when he meets Olivia, a dancer from a well-off family, who however cast a shadow of doubt over Mambo’s agenda. His quest for freedom and hope takes him through a South African odyssey.

The film also takes place in a series of flashbacks of what happened leading up to a pivotal moment that explains how he ends up in this predicament.

In the flashbacks, hoping for a new life, Joshua and his family were forced to migrate out of desperation, seeking to escape poor conditions in Zimbabwe. But only to be met with xenophobic attacks which unfortunately resulted in the death of his family.

South Africa has become a place of hope for many who flee from ethnic wars, terrorism, and political instability. This has resulted in a mass exodus to South Africa. However, the country has suffered an economic slowdown and has recorded high unemployment rates and poor service delivery. And many have directed their frustration and anger at black immigrants that are considered threats to the economy.

Riding with Sugar throws around all these stereotypes about black immigrants, drug use, and violence. Black African audiences, in particular, will identify with the realness and familiarity of these issues.

The film is written and directed by award-winning Sunu Gonera. It also shows the power of determination as it took Gonera 17 years for his film to get picked up and shot after many rejections. The movie is shot in Cape Town. It was produced by South African producer extraordinaire Helena Spring.


Written by Ph

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