South African Muslims come to life in “Material” film
A low-budget movie about a young Muslim man’s quest to make it on the Johannesburg comedy circuit is wowing audiences across South Africa, and its powerful portrayal of the clash between youth, tradition and religion may lead to global recognition.
Set in the Muslim Indian enclave of Fordsburg in Africa’s “City of Gold”, “Material” charts the tempestuous relationship between Cassim Kaif, played by local stand-up comedian Riaad Moosa, and his ageing father, Ebrahim, whose one dream is for his son to take over the family’s struggling fabric shop.
Shot on a shoe-string $1 million budget, the movie combines moments of heart-wrenching family and personal drama with hilarious snippets of stand-up comedy and everyday life in one of the continent’s most cosmopolitan cities.
“The film celebrates the goodness of South Africa’s spirit and the legacy of a unique and historical part of this land,” said producer Ronnie Apteker, a successful Internet entrepreneur whose energies are now dedicated to film-making.
“It is not a Bollywood film, but a contemporary Indian story. It is a movie for the whole family, contains no profanity, and should be able to be enjoyed by people of all ages both in South Africa and the rest of the world.”
In the past three weeks, box office takings show it holding its own against major Hollywood releases, and it is generating considerable buzz in local media and among a South African public not renowned for its movie-going.
It is also a rare example of a film that explores the plight of the sizeable Indian community, rather than focus on the more well-known struggle of the black majority against the white-minority rule that ended in 1994.