Of Good Report
Here is the film to put director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka on the map, partly due to its controversy (it was banned in its native South Africa and reinstated in a matter of weeks), but more so for its quality. In a rural town, Parker, a teacher “of good report,” begins an illicit relationship with Nolitha, a 16 year old girl supposedly under his protection, all of which ends in murder and tragedy. The riffs on Lolita are obvious and well referenced, but where Nabokov provoked in prose, Qubeka uses images and angles, forcing us into an uncomfortable complicity.
In flashback we see the early emotional wounds that led to Parker’s latter day scars. These disturbing memories are spliced into a genre defying construction of fantasy and pressure-releasing black comedy, typified by a Bob Fosse-inspired ballroom dance scene. Misogyny, violence, the protective cloak of respectability: all themes are covered seamlessly here and realised through beautiful monochrome photography, alternatively otherworldly and hyper-real and filled with evocative imagery – a leaking roof, a broken down bus, a bravura shot through the hole in a worn out shoe – that points to a disintegrating man. But for a film of issues these are lightly worn and, at its heart, Of Good Report remains a well-worked tense thriller, which borrows heavily, especially in two impressive set pieces, from Hitchcock, the master.