Four Corners tells us a story about three people. Ricardo (Jezzriel Skei) is 13 years old and has just been sent to prison for a short time. It is clear from the beginning that he is a good-hearted kid, but he does not have the necessary chances to break out of the criminal environment he grows up in.
Farakhan (Brendon Daniels) is released after 13 years of prison. He has been a general for the 28s, one of the three Numbers Gangs*, but he is done with that. Farakhan returns to his former home, which is situated in 26s related territory. Even though he has officially taken distance from the 28s, it is not so evident that the gangs will let him open a shop.
Tito (Abduragman Adams) is a police officer who is deeply concerned for Ricardo as he sees the good in the boy. At the same time, he wants to investigate a series of mysterious abductions in the Cape Flats. He suspects a serial killer might be on the loose.
Slowly but certain their lives become more and more intertwined as the movie reaches its compelling climax.
Four Corners is definitely one of the best South African movies out there. It combines the tragedy of gangsterism in the Cape Flats (an area with some of the world’s highest gang related crime rates) with the suspense of the serial killer story. In that sense it serves as both a gripping drama and a good thriller.
The film has its flaws – the most blatant being the unnecessary and unconvincing character of Dr. Leila Domingo – but for the biggest part director Ian Gabriel has delivered a beautiful story with a just as beautiful cinematography. The casting process took about a year (!) because the makers wanted to create a genuine feel to the movie. Most of the actors have no or very limited acting experience, but their performances are great. Added to that, the settings are real and they add to the depth of the story.
Despited the hopeless reality of the gangsterism, there is still room for hope. Relationships are torn apart, people die, others give up; but in the midst of it all there is also space for self-sacrifice and the restoration of an impossible relationship. Very fragile and hesitant, but it is there.
The prison gangs in the Cape Town area have pervaded beyond the four corners of the prison. They dominate the lives of many people in gang infested territories and kill all hope to get out. This reality is at our doorstep and Four Corners brings it closer to us. It makes us aware of its tragedy. Unfortunately, Four Corners has also had an opposite effect on young people living in the Cape Flats. I spoke with a social worker involved with youth work a few months ago and he was explaining how youngsters look up to the violent gangsters and dream of being a part of that. They did not see the tragedy of Four Corners but were inspired to be part of this group. How? I don’t know. Maybe because they already live in this hopeless environment. They need relationships that bring them restoration and hope.
Four Corners – Ian Gabriel (Giant Films, 2013)
*A good non-fiction book on the Numbers Gangs in Cape Town is Jonny Steinberg’s The Number.