One of the acclaimed short films from the sophomore class of Focus Features’ seemingly now-defunct Africa First Shorts Program, “Umkhungo,” also a South African film, directed by Matthew Jankes, is now online, courtesy of the filmmaker, who alerted me to it over the weekend, and I’m sharing with you all now.
The film is as close to a superhero origin story, set in an African country, as there currently is in the marketplace. In it, a disillusioned Johannesburg hustler on the run rescues an orphaned child with uncontrollable supernatural powers. He attempts to help the boy master his gift before a superstitious family member, who believes the boy is more of a curse, hunts them down.
I saw it at the New York African Film Festival in 2011, along with the other short films from the Africa First program released that year, and I dug it for the most part. As I recall, it was thrilling to watch it in a theatrical setting, and see the potential for a really exciting feature-length film, with a black African child protagonist depicted in a manner we rarely, if ever, get to see on the big screen. It’s well acted and photographed; and the final scene in which the boy is forced to demonstrate his “super” abilities, is awesome!
Without further ado, watch “Umkhungo” (which translates as “The Gift”) below: