Film: Little One
Director: Darrell James Roodt|
Starring: Lindiwe Ndlovu, Vuyelwa Msimang, Mutodi Nesheshe, Luzuko Nqeto, Mpumi Nyayane, Jonathan Taylor, Richard Lukunk
Opens: 26 April 2013
Little One is both gripping and dramatic from the start – as it opens on Pauline (Lindiwe Ndlovu) discovering a six-year old girl (Vuyelwa Msimang) gruesomely injured and left for dead in a field near a township in Johannesburg. Pauline’s desperate run through the dusty streets, carrying the small child and crying for someone to help her, sets the scene of what’s to come in the next 80 minutes or so.
Pauline eventually gets the girl to a hospital where it is determined that she has been gang raped and brutally beaten. She emerges from surgery, alive but scarred and traumatised, unwilling to speak or even provide her name. Pauline’s kind hearted nature and a secret which I won’t reveal here, mean she feels compelled to check up on the child, unable to leave her alone day after day even after her vicious husband commands she let it go. As the police and officials are unable to locate the child’s family, Pauline finds herself drawn further and further into the complicated case, and increasingly the only person the little girl will open up too.
Everyone in the film is on a journey of sorts, not just Pauline and Vuyelwa who cling to each other in a kind of mutual desperation. Even the bitter, boozing husband Jacob (Luzuko Nqeto) and the world-weary detective (Mutodi Nesheshe) working the case are changed by the events that unfold on screen.
Little One is not just emotionally compelling, it is also beautifully shot – vivid and evocative images of the dire township and the soulless hospital contrasted with the warmth of Pauline, who is the heart and keystone of the whole film. And I keep forgetting to mention that it is all in Zulu and subtitled in English, because it is incorporated so seamlessly that it barely registered for this English-speaking audience member.
The film was directed by award-winning director Darrell Roodt (of Sarafina! and Cry, the beloved country fame among other things) and earned lead actress Lindiwe the coveted SAFTA for Best Actress in a Feature Film last month, which she collected from Hollywood heavyweight Samuel L Jackson in a much buzzed-about highlight of the awards ceremony. It was also chosen as the South African entry for the Best Foreign Language category at the 85th Academy Awards, although it did not make the final shortlist of nominated films.
If you are looking for a movie that has substance, a movie that delves head first into some serious issues and invites you to get “deep”, all packaged around excellent and real performances, Little One will tick the boxes. Straight up – do not watch this film if you’re in the mood for a feel-good, romcom type movie only. There is a lot of what is uplifting in Little One – love, redemption, hope – but it will also make you despair, and in this reviewer’s case, shed a tear or ten.
By Kate Ferreira