By: Andiswa Machanyana


Before anything else it should be noted that I am not a movie critique just an ordinary South African who enjoys the elusive world that movies happen to bring sometimes. When I went to see the critically acclaimed South African movie ‘Thina Sobabili’ I had imagined this beautifully depicted love story. I though the review I overheard on the radio the other day was enough, I mean they used all sorts of good adjectives that one can think of. They did however forget to mention that the movie was not a pleasant story at all.


The story is brilliantly told, the cast is marvellously superb.

In cine seven with about five others there I was in my mind still waiting for the love story, I think my mind kept thinking about DJ Tira’s song Thina sobabili hence I had this. It turned out the movie is about these two siblings Thulani and Zanele, living on their own in a shack in Alexandra after their granny who was raising them had passed on. The older boy who is rather disturbed even when hanging out with his mates, would do anything in his power to protect his younger sister. The vivid image of the sexual abuse to the younger sister by the step father comes to mind every time he thinks about the safety of his sister. The sister a determined school girl who studies every night with a candle lit in 2015 (it still happens).

Zanele is friends with a bubble care free Tumi, she looked like one of those popular school girls and popular she seemed with a string of older men, who supply her with alcohol to numb the reality of her township life, money to carry to school and to go out sometimes.Tumi has your minister of Finance, minister of entertainment etc.Being the good friend that she is she introduces Zanele to the life of parting with older men of cause and gives her proper make over coupled with a guide of how to behave around men.” This is how you should dress; make sure you smile all the time “she tells Zanele. Hesitant timid Zanele, she turns out to be a fast learner because she is seen later painting her face with make up (assuming it was a gift from the caring friend Tumi ) preparing to go and meet the old men Sakhi.

Meanwhile Thulani is cementing plans for a robbery that him and his friends are about to undertake at a Bryanston mansion later the same night. After a brief quarrel with Zanele, Thulani takes off with his friend on their way to the said robbery, half way through the trip he feels rather ill at ease, he asks the driver to stop the car he gets off and he walks back home. Needless to say he gets to a Zanele less house , he frantically goes looking for her, Tumi informs him of his sister whereabouts.

After a shared dinner in the car Sakhi Zanele’s old man asks Zanele for a kiss, she refuses, he begs, she says no, he assures her that its only a kiss, she continues to say no and ask him to take her home he begs some more for the kiss, Zanele is still saying no, he eventually takes the kiss by force.Zanele is screaming and tries to free herself off him. Thulani get there just in time, as expected he ask no questions he jumps in to defend her sister. He beats the Sakhi guy semi conscious.

Meanwhile Zanele and Thulani’s mother upon an earlier visit from Thulani begging her to go back home because Zanele was now at the peak of puberty and needed her mother, she decides to leave her abusing husband and goes back to be the mother to her kids. After a few enquiries she is directed where Thulani lives but before she gets there she sees people running towards a certainly direction where it’s believed that Thulani is in an squabble with Zanele’s Sugar daddy. By the time the mother get there Thulani is taking his final breath after being stabbed by her sister who though she was defending her brother from the sugar daddy who happens to be their mothers husband, the one who was sexually abusing the same Zanele when she was a baby.

Again brilliantly illustrated,

But why do I now want to fault the movie?

I don’t if anything the movie does well in highlighting some of the prevalent challenges in the townships one of which being


It’s no brainer, every day we hear stories of domestic violence, some we never get to hear because the victims never report them or they never live to tell the stories, they die at the hands of the perpetrators. Some woman chose to live with their abusive partners for survival purposes at the expense of their kids, like it is rightfully show in this movie, it happens I have seen it. Now issue highlighted what then?


Movie shot in Alexandra one of the poverty stricken townships in South Africa. The school girls in the form of Tumi and Zanele do well to show us what poverty does, especially to young girls. They end up at the hands of sugar daddies etc, but then again…these are school going kids surely they ought to be learning something from school. Yes we hear now and then how much Zanele wants to get out of the township life, be a flight attendant and travel the world. In the end though it does not happen, goes to shows how many dreams end up being just that dreams.


Thulani and his crew do what ‘most’ typical township boys do, house breaking, petty crimes. But wait is this typical? How real is this? None of them goes to school. Not even one of them says “wait we can’t go on like this” Not even the seem to be a little wise Thulani? Does this sort of behaviour continue to shape our townships?

Was I too much of a dreamer in hoping for a happy ending in this movie?

Isn’t that what movies are for? Are they not meant to inspire us to dream more? To do the impossible, like getting out of a township, obtaining a degree, lead and near normal life?

Yes the movie does not claim to tell the entire story of a township life, but did it do justice to the bit they chose?

Has it changed the mindset or the outlook of white people towards township culture?

What did the producers aim to achieve? Or maybe the idea was not to give hope but just highlight how some of the people in the townships lead their lives, whatever the motive it left me with a lot of questions.

But then again it was not just for me…


  1. Mh. I don’t know why I haven’t heard of this movie before and now I really want to watch it. Chances of finding it in my little town are slim, though. I also like happy endings to movies and I find that many South African films can leave one feeling VERY down…

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    • Hi Barefootmegz, Which Town do you reside in ? please go on facebook and search “thina sobabili” for more info about the film and their next screenings.

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  2. I concur!! Great review Andiswa and I’m really concerned about the ending as well, this leaves people not living in the townships in the dark,but not only in the dark in a mindset of thinking there’s no better life in townships. Movies like these should be educating and motivating people living in the situation to have a better way of living. This still leaves a bad stigma on white people when it come to township culture. On the producer’s aim, this is their aim on news about the movie: “Thina Sobabili’ won’t be appearing on any local screens for a while as it’s going on tour to the Durban Film Festival in July and then touring to Toronto in the coming months, but Ernest assures us that the model they hope to use to distribute it will get the film in the hands of whoever wants to see it.” – I aggre its truly a south africa township movie beside borrowing production style and techniques from Nollywood!

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  3. Hi Anele, We are currently on cinema right now, well tonight is our last night before we screen in New York and Montreal Film Festivals. The aim wasn’t to motivate people or educate people, though the film tries to achieve that through telling the unbearable truth which should motivate people especially in the Townships.

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