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Movie review: Akin Omotoso's slow-burner Vaya is explosive

By Emmanuel Tjiya | 2017-09-14 12:11:04.0

  • Sihle Xaba and Warren Masemola. Picture credit: Times Media Films.

  • Sihle Xaba. Picture credit: Times Media Films.

  • Jabulani Mthembu and Emmanuel Gweva. Picture credit: Times Media Films.

  • Zimkhitha Nyoka and Lunga Radebe. Picture credit: Times Media Films.

  • Zimkhitha Nyoka. Picture credit: Facebook.

  • Sibusiso Msimang. Picture credit: Facebook.

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The biggest downfall about revered filmmaker Akin Omotoso's stunning slow-burner Vaya is that it lacks a massive punch in the first act.

While the fact that the film fails to captivate from the get-go may not count in its favour, given a chance Vaya is unexpectedly satisfying.

Framed against the exquisite Johannesburg landscape, Vaya is nothing short of visually arresting, incredibly harrowing, unpredictable and thought provoking.

The carefully deliberated screenplay is not groundbreaking and it does not feel like it's trying to be. What makes the skillful and insightful coming-of-age story precious is that, although entertaining, it remains honest to its grim subject matter.

With so much heart and soul, Vaya spotlights topical issues of crime, polygamy, unsafe abortions, secret families, human trafficking and casting couches.

Omotoso tells a story of three young protagonists, each on a separate journey to self discovery. We are first introduced to them on a train en route to Johannesburg. Their motives for coming to the city of gold couldn't be more different from one another. Yet they are closely connected by their naiveté and betrayal by a close relative.

Upon arrival, they soon discover that while the big city is where dreams are realised, it is also demonic and harbours a lot of dark secrets.

Vaya is full of fireworks

The film boasts a robustly populated story. As a result, no one stands out in the talented cast and every actor is given enough material to shine.

Ingénue Zimkhitha Nyoka's delicate, yet strong, approach to her character is delivered with so much subtle brilliance. Sibusiso Msimang is superb at being devastating. Sihle Xaba makes a mark as a likable clown, while newcomer Azwile Chamane-Madiba is the one to watch.

Warren Masemola is terrifying, but as always he's terrific at it. Proving that you don't need hours of screen time to make an impression, Harriet Manamelo makes the most of her limited screen time – making every frame count before she even opens her mouth.

In the third act the three unparallel stories quickly intertwine to a disastrous, thrilling and explosive climax. As a result, your heart will be left racing faster than the drum beat that scores a cathartic scene.

Technically, the feature length picture is packaged with style and aptitude. As a result, the film is artfully impressive, intellectually pleasing and emotionally moving.

Rating: 7/10

*In order to qualify for Oscar submission, Vaya goes on limited release this Friday. Vaya goes on general release on 27 October.