A story of hope, justice and victory
“Bad things happen all the time, you know. You just have to pick up the pieces,” are the first words spoken in the new documentary film detailing the night that would go on to define one of South Africa’s most talented and influential hiphop artists.
The film, directed by Monde Sibisi, is a screengrab of 2013, the year in which hip-hop superstar Khuli Chana’s life and career were changed and almost ended.
It opens on a high, showing what is a highlight reel of Khuli (real name Khulane Morule’s) peak. Things were looking up: he had just released his album, Lost in Time, and was riding the wave of hit singles, major awards and, at one point, was doing up to 20 gigs a month.
It was while driving to one of these gigs in October 2013 that the South African Police Service bungled a sting operation and fired nine shots at his car after mistaking him for a kidnapper they were after.
This is the inciting incident of the film. The viewer is then taken through the whirlwind of emotions the rapper had to weather as feelings of self-doubt, fear and paranoia took a hold of his life.
As much as this well-shot film juxtaposes the highest and lowest points of the 33-year-old rapper’s career, it also highlights in its narrative the issue of police brutality and the media coverage thereof in South Africa.
Online headlines and news clips are interspersed with talking-head interviews with the people closest to Khuli and the incident, including family, friends, lawyers and even eNCA’s Karyn Maughn. And the message sent in this aptly-paced doccie is clear: South Africa may have a police problem.
Although it plays like a very long EPK, Picking up the Pieces is ultimately a story of hope and how a man on top of the world was shot down but managed to emerge victorious from the gun smoke and it’s a good watch.
COMEBACK KID. Khuli Chana during an interview about his shooting in Midrand, Johannesburg, on November 1, 2013. Chana was shot at by police nine times in a case of mistaken identity.