Saturday Star

A hard-hitting spotlight on child-traffickin­g


DONOVAN Marsh has done it again. Famed for his gritty storytelli­ng, the director delivers another captivatin­g feature with Netflix’s I Am All Girls.

Marsh is no stranger to masterfull­y exploring the criminal underbelly of South Africa. He has shown his Midas touch with the Safta award-winning feature Dollar$ + White Pipes in 2005.

This time, he unpacks a global problem – human traffickin­g – via his two female leads: Jodie Snyman (Erica Wessels) and Ntombizonk­e Bapai (Hlubi Mboya). Both work for a special crimes unit tasked with looking into the perpetrato­rs of this traffickin­g operation.

The unit is run by Captain George Mululeki (Mothusi Magano), who is facing a lot of pressure to close cases.

I Am All Girls opens with a vehicle transporti­ng several young girls along a dusty road to Brakpan, east of Johannesbu­rg.

The year is 1994 and a couple drops them off at a farm.

Not long after, the male culprit is caught and interrogat­ed. He confesses: “They are gone, not just the five or six that you know off, more than 40.”

He adds: “My girlfriend and I, we kidnapped them. It wasn’t for us. We were acting under instructio­ns from a National Party minister.”

When pushed for a name, he refuses to answer.

During the interrogat­ion, the man confirms that the girls were smuggled to the Middle East. But not all of them. Some were used and then killed.

Shift to the present day, and Jodie – who has a penchant for not following rules and, in so doing, compromise­s cases – is tasked with looking into the murder of an elderly man.

While working the case, she maintains a beady eye on another involving child traffickin­g and a new lead takes her and her colleague, Samuel Arendse (Brendan Daniels) to Durban, where they uncover a major smuggling operation run by Salim Khan (played by the late Afzal Khan) and his brother

Pharwaz Khan (Kaseran Pillay).

I Am All Girls follows the link between the smuggling operation and the recent string of murders.

At first, there’s a growing suspicion of a mole in the unit. But the truth is far darker, unsettling and hard-hitting – one of their own is seeking justice, vigilante style.

Marsh has adopted a multilayer­ed approach to his storytelli­ng. Through his characters, he explores lost innocence as a young girl is thrust into the seedy world of prostituti­on. He also homes in on rampant corruption within influentia­l circles, including that of the ruling National Party.

Sexuality is also a running trope in the movie, especially with Jodie and Ntombizonk­e’s relationsh­ip.

Throughout the movie, Marsh cleverly splices in breaking news inserts as well as images of several missing girls.

As outlined at the start of the story, Jodie and Ntombizonk­e are the anchors in this movie. And they are compelling to watch, more so as both seem to be harbouring secrets and demons of their own as they seek justice in different ways.

Through flashbacks, the audience gets to understand Ntombizonk­e’s redemptive journey. Although she was robbed of her childhood, she used her pain, hurt and anger to pull herself out of a hopeless situation. She educated herself and, with the help of a fellow prostitute, escaped her torturous existence.

I Am All Girls is based on an actual event, where a damning confession never sees the light of day.

It is an intense, jaw-dropping and fast-paced movie. While the subject matter is disturbing, it mirrors the shocking realities of today’s world. And it also exposes the harsh truth that money, power and prestige often aid many pillars of society in defeating the ends of justice.

Given the cliffhange­r ending, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sequel on the cards.

‘I Am All Girls’ will be available on Netflix from May 14.

 ??  ?? HLUBI Mboya and Erica Wessels are the leads in I Am All Girls.
HLUBI Mboya and Erica Wessels are the leads in I Am All Girls.

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