WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Holy crap. This film…. First of all, the beginning was so riveting that I didn’t even realise that I was holding my breath for the entire opening sequence. I spent the majority of time with a tense body and with my hands ready to cover my face as I anticipated the scenes.
Of Good Report induced a physical reaction in me. From the middle of the film to an hour after the film ended I felt like I was going to throw up. I suffered an allergic reaction and was wired until about 4am. Moreover, when driving home, I thought that the Afro-Trinidadian man wearing glasses with an oval face who pulled up at the lights next to me was Mr Sithole, come to follow me home and abduct me. Oh, the imagination of a writer. Still though, the film gets to you on a visceral level. It’s kind of like Dexter on steroids.
Of Good Report is a film by Jahmil XT Qubeka, a South African filmmaker. Parker Sithole arrives in a poor rural township to begin a new job as a teacher at the local school. The audience is treated to some intentionally vague flashbacks as they try to piece together this man’s character, a task made extremely difficult by the fact that we do not hear him utter one single sentence during the entire film (a detail which concretises the creepiness of his character).
He appears to be of unimpeachable character yet almost immediately he begins an affair with a student, 16-year-old Nolitha. Soon the true nature of this seemingly mild-mannered man is revealed: Parker is a bloody psychopath. As the film progresses, the flashbacks become more intense in detail and impact and then, in a climatic, gut wrenchingly murderous scene, Parker confronts his antagonist, the ghost of his dead mother, and is left to deal with the consequences to his actions.
The film is shot in black and white, a perfect stratagem for conjuring the hair-raising feel of the piece. The noirish Hitchcockian quality of the film immediately establishes an aesthetic that gives you the feeling of being on the edge of a very sharp knife. The sound design is equally evocative.
Mothusi Magano as Parker Sithole is exquisite. The only vocal expressions that the audience gets from him are jubilant laughter or guttural, excruciating screams. Yet he says so much with his eerily observant eyes and placid face, even as he is sawing the body of his ex-lover to pieces and placing those pieces in plastic bags. No wonder this film was banned before its premiere at the Durban International Film Festival.
I also appreciated the use of literary motifs such as Othello in grounding the story and simultaneously lending it a wonderfully macabre theatrical element.
When I asked audience members about their experience post film, one woman said that she quite enjoyed the film but found it anticlimactic. When I asked if she found that the level of violence was too much, she said no. One man commented that it was brilliant and quite reminiscent of Bates Motel. His friend agreed that it was well done, even though it was quite disturbing—definitely not something that she could watch twice.
Of Good Report it a great film. It is entirely provocative and brings to light issues regarding child molestation, teacher-student relationships, under-aged sex, pregnancy, abortion, family relations and psychological health. More than that, these issues are presented in a haunting manner that you are sure never to forget.