Family is probably one of the most precious things in life. Having a father and mother who care deeply about you, who will support you in every way possible and who will there for you every time you need them. However, not everyone is that lucky and that’s where the idea for The Hangman, the newest feature from director Zwelethu Radebe (The Hajji), came from. It is about Khetha, still living with his mother who are both of African descent, in the search of his lost father who abandoned him a long time ago.
Set during the peak of Apartheid in 1989, Khetha’s (Thato Dhladla) life certainly isn’t all daisies and daffodils. On the contrary, as the only black guard working in a prison in which only black inmates are being punished and trialed, he’s often seen as a traitor. Especially when he’s giving out orders to punish. However, when inmate Mfundisi (Khulu Skenjana) is being sentenced to death row, Khetha’s consciousness starts to take over slowly. He’s starting to doubt himself, his job and he’s looking back at his past full of regrets and sadness especially after his father left. Then Mfundisi confides in Khetha that he is his long-lost father. Will Khetha be able to forgive him and spare his life or will the hatred for his father take the upper hand?
Since its release, The Hangman is getting festival nominations and awards all over the world, including Best Foreign Film at the L.A. Shorts Fest and it’s incredibly understandable why. It might be a short movie with little conversations but one of the strengths of this film is that it makes up big time in emotions. Whether it’s the combination of Khetha and his animosity, and love for his father, the sadness, and grief from this mother Sizakele (Lerato Mvelase) or the begging for forgiveness from Mfundisi. The Hangman takes you on an emotional rollercoaster with rising highs and deep-down lows.
Of course, behind those emotions are the wonderful actors. Thato Dhladla, of who The Hangman is his second film and first short film as an actor, puts on an unbelievable powerful display as Khetha, who is torn apart between his past and his future. He is surrounded by marvellous Lerato Mvelase (Life Above All, Madiba) as the grieving wife and mother, who cares about her son more than he can imagine even when that means hiding things from him, and the astounding Khulu Skenjana (Stillborn, Zulu) as the father, who in time of fear and death is putting his own life in the hand of his son.
If you are one of the lucky people attending the Hollyshorts film festival in Hollywood, then you should buy a ticket for the screening of The Hangman. You will step into the world of grief, doubt, family and the painful relationship between father and son. Let’s hope that the movie will be selected for more film festivals closer to home because it deserves every attention it can get.
Liselotte Vanophem, Film and Celebrity Reporter – Just Celebrity Magazine