Set against the backdrop of another terrible tragedy not taught in Western history books, in which black Africans were slaughtered by white South Africans, this love story seeks to look beyond race and forgive those who have wronged us. Does jewel plead for ultimate forgiveness?
JEWEL: STREAM OR SKIP?
The essentials: In Sharpeville, South Africa, a town ravaged by a ruthless massacre in the 1960s, white tourists often come into town with their cameras in tow. A tourist, Tyra (Michelle Botes), goes to a local woman named Siya (Nqobile Khumalo) and asks her to be her tour guide. The two become close and secretly fall in love, and when Siya’s friend Tshepo (Sandile Mahlangu) finds out about it, he seeks revenge – not only for Siya’s infidelity, but also for Tyra’s skin color.
What will it remind you of?: In a way, the film plays out like the first half of 2019 waves, with a friend who is acting out of jealousy towards his girlfriend. The only problem is jewel has no other half to redeem his characters.
Notable performance: Connie Chiume, who plays Siya’s grandmother, is a highlight with her outstanding wit and wise advice. It’s no surprise that she’s magnetic — she was there, too Black Panther and Beyoncés Black is king.
Memorable dialogue: A conversation at the beginning of the film between Tyra and another white tourist sheds light on the sad history between white and black South Africans. “Why are you here?” Tyra asks him. He replies: “White guilt, what else?”
gender and skin: Siya and her boyfriend Tshepo have sex but intimate body parts are not shown.
Our opinion: On paper, this film appears to be about two women from different walks of life who find common ground that leads them to love. But in reality the film focuses more on a man’s inability to let go, his sense of ownership of the women in his life and the efforts he makes to secure their honor. Tshepo’s jealous turn reveals a fit of toxic masculinity at work, undermining everything the film was trying to say about Tyra and Siya’s forbidden love story. His anger also far exceeds Tyra’s and his actions reveal him as crueler than anything, and it quickly detracts from any sympathy you might have had for him earlier in the film.
Additionally, Tyra and Siya’s love story doesn’t feel fully formed. There’s an initial attraction and a few hookups (including a sensual dance club scene), but we don’t really see them getting to know each other or revealing intimate details about their lives. Without this strong foundation, the film doesn’t have the emotional balance to withstand Tshepo’s jealous actions.
In the end, it seems like the film didn’t really know what it was trying to say. There’s some great dialogue about why no one bats an eyelid when black people are being massacred that really helps establish Tshepo’s anger. On the other hand, there are also interesting thoughts about karma and forgiveness. The two ideas live side by side but don’t seem to speak to each other, which is detrimental to the film’s overall message.
Our appeal: SKIP IT. Although there are some interesting ideas about race and forgiveness at play, the film doesn’t tie the message together.
Radhika Menon (@menonrad) is a television-obsessed writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared on Vulture, Teen Vogue, Paste Magazine, and more. She can always think about Friday Night Lights, the University of Michigan, and the perfect slice of pizza. You can call them Rad.