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MOVIE REVIEW: 'She is King' is the perfect holiday flick

Gugu Zulu
Image: Supplied

'She is King' is as much a celebration of the Zulu culture, as it is about taking a firm stance about sisterhood and female power.

Spearheaded by Idols SA alum Gugu Zulu, the star-studded musical is the perfect holiday flick and it makes it very hard not to get swept-up.

You don't get groundbreaking cinema from She if King, but it still leaves you feeling refreshed to the very end. The winning recipe for director Gersh Kgamedi is that he prioritised simplicity and clarity – over melodrama.

But don't let my previous statement fool you into thinking that the film lacks some punch. It has enough shine and glamour to appeal to a broad audience.

Although clichéd in most parts; the screenplay doesn't leave you whiplashed, but rather you experience a case of "so bad, it's good".

Khabonina Qubeka and Aubrey Poo
Khabonina Qubeka and Aubrey Poo
Image: Supplied

Superbly cast Zulu portrays warrior princess Khanyisile, who from the get-go proves that she's a triple-threat – singer, dancer and actor.

She comes to the City of Gold to audition for a stage musical based of the life of Zulu Queen Mkabayi kaJama. What Khanyisile lacks in experience, she makes up for it with her fire and passion.

Over the course of eight weeks, she takes us on a resilient rollercoaster ride of hope, ushering the audience on her journey to the top.

While her audition is flawless, rehearsals are not smooth-sailing as egos begin to clash and add into the mix a tragic love story.

But it's the introduction of Sophie Ndaba's character in the final act that rocks her world as a deep dark family secret is exposed.

If we were to compile a list of local productions – both on the small and big screen – where the main character is a naïve villager, coming to Jozi to have their dreams realized we will end up with an echo chamber.

But while many of these coming-of-age narratives fall under the same trap of cautioning about how cruel Jozi can be, Kgamedi does the opposite with She is King. He shows us the beautiful side of the concrete jungle.

Khanyi Mbau and Khabonina Qubeka.
Khanyi Mbau and Khabonina Qubeka.
Image: Supplied

The end-result is a feel-good glossy production that does some justice to how incredibly rich our culture, heritage, art and identity are.

Zulu is brilliantly supported by a great cast, but she is one big reason to watch this movie. It's her movie; it's her time to shine. Frame-after-frame you can't take your eyes off of her. She will melt and then charm her way into every vessel of your heart.

Her ability to disappear completely into the role – not once over-the-top – so much so that you forget that you are watching a performance is precious and admirable.

Mandisa Nduna is razor-sharp as feisty Zethu.She is given enough screen time to show you how underrated and gifted she is. If Zulu is the heart of the film, then Nduna is simply the soul.

Khabonina Qubeka, Aubrey Poo and Khanyi Mbau take a backseat and let the young cast shine. But Qubeka steals one over Zulu, in a robust dance-off.

The soundtrack will stay with you well after the credit rolls. Tunes from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Lucky Dube, Vusi Khumalo, Simpiwe Dana, PJ Powers and Joseph Shabalala take centre-stage.

A remake of Brenda Fassie's Higher and Higher, with Zulu on vocals and Nduna rapping, will leave a smile on your face.

Rating: 6/10

The film opens in cinemas this Friday, 1 December.

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