Gangster's Paradise: Jerusalema Review

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In the crime-ridden slums and tenements of Johannesburg, petty thief Lucky Kunene hatches a scheme to make his escape.


Indebted to the tropes forged In classic Warner gangster pictures of the 1930s, this is a sobering study of South Africa in the decade following the dismantling of Apartheid. Outgrowing Soweto, carjacker Lucky (Seiphemo) sets himself up as a realtor in Johannesburg. But his rapid rise earns him some powerful enemies and alienates him from childhood buddy Zakes (Nyakale).

Ralph Ziman ably captures the sense of unleashed optimism during the “affirmative repossession” phase of the duo’s career, but the socio-economic authenticity slips as the purloined proceeds of a housing trust cause Lucky to lose touch with reality. Nevertheless, this unflinchingly exposes the extent to which racism continued to affect society under both Mandela and Mbeki.

A potent, energised slice of South African life.