Five Tiger is a short film about a sex worker trying to support her family. it played at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film was written and directed by Nomawonga Khumalo.
It was inspired by a conversation Nomawonga had with a sex worker in Johannesburg. The sex worker told Khumalo a story about praying for blessing on her and her work. She – the sex worker – said that she would one day be viewed with favor because she kept her faith and paid her tithing. His farewell words to Khumalo were “God loves us all”. The filmmaker said that angered her. It forced her to look at how structures like the church support but also hold people back.
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Five Tiger is a ten minute short film that will accompany you long after the credits roll. We are introduced to a woman working as a sex worker. It is later revealed that his client is a church leader. Her husband is ill and she is under financial pressure to support her family. Her daughter tells her that she spent the money from her transaction the day before, on a school market day.
In an interview with The Daily Vox, Khumalo said the film was influenced by the state of culture, religion and the plight of women.
âThe (recent) CRL hearings have been quite revealing in terms of our attitudes towards women who engage in religious practices that are exploited by them,â Khumalo said.
The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission), heard rape allegations made against the head of the church, Bishop Stephen Zondo.
Khumalo explained that Five Tiger was an opportunity to tell the same story from a different perspective.
âWith the economic positions these women find themselves in, they are turning to something faith-oriented. But it is the same religious and cultural institutions that keep them oppressed. They don’t allow them to find help, âKhumalo said.
The cinematography is impeccable. The viewer can taste the dry air through the screen. The stellar distribution includes Ayanda Seoka, Fumani Shilubani, Khalalelo Makhanda and Menzi Biyela. It’s subtle, visually appealing, and the actors wear their characters’ struggles on their faces. The protagonist’s husband is a metaphor for the judgment against sex work.
While nothing changes for the main character, the film is an attempt for audiences to change their views and perspectives. Five Tiger forces you to question the structures that govern us, and how women are still addressed to them.
The film intersects with South African society, feminism and the culture of rape. Khumalo expertly tells a hard-hitting story with sensitivity and care.
Khumalo is currently working on his highly anticipated feature film; The stock market. This is a film that looks at the practice of virginity testing and scholarships for young girls in South Africa. Recent unrest in Kwazulu-Natal and the impact of Covid-19 delayed filming. Khumalo said that public bodies like the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) have a huge impact on cinema in South Africa.
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âThey support and put women filmmakers at the forefront,â Khumalo said.
Five Tiger is available to watch on Showmax.
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Featured Image (s) provided by Showmax