The 5 best local hits to stream now on Showmax

ZOG

Zog is the keenest but clumsiest pupil in his class at Dragon School, where he longs to win a gold star as he learns how to fly, roar and breathe fire. He keeps meeting a kindly young girl who patches up his bumps and bruises, but can she help him with his trickiest school assignment yet: capturing a princess? 

Animated in Cape Town by Triggerfish and produced by the UK’s Magic Light Pictures, the 27-minute animated short captures the magic of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s bestselling picture book, with an all-star voice cast including the likes of Kit Harington, Sir Lenny Henry and Tracey Ullman. It’s co-directed by multi-award-winning South African Daniel Snaddon (Stick Man) and two-time Oscar nominee Max Lang (The Gruffalo and Room On The Broom).  

This year Zog has been named Best Animation at the 2020 International Emmy Kids Awards and won the Children’s Programme Award from the Royal Television Society, among other honours like Kidscreen and Annie Awards nominations.

THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE

Another Donaldson and Scheffler adaptation, The Snail and the Whale, was also recently added to Showmax. Made by the same team as ZogThe Snail and the Whale follows the amazing journey of a tiny snail who longs to see the world and hitches a ride on the tail of a huge humpback whale. As the snail, Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) won Best Voice Performance at this year’s British Animation Awards, where the short was also up for Best Longform Animation and Best Use of Sound.

RAGE

Image: Showmax

In Rage, a group of school-leavers descend on a tiny coastal town for a celebration of their freedom. Roxy, Sihle, Kyle, Leon, Tamsyn and Neo party on the beach and drink themselves silly every night. The townsfolk, Hermien and her son Albert, are welcoming – too welcoming. During a psychedelic trip on the beach, the friends witness a disturbing birth ritual, which could be a hallucination, or not. Soon fertility figurines start to appear at random places, and what is supposed to be the best holiday of their lives turns to horror as the teenagers are picked off one by one.

Nicole Fortuin, whose previous film, Flatland, opened the Berlin Panorama, stars as Tamsyn, with The Girl From St Agnes’ breakout stars Jane de Wet (MoffieStill Breathing) and Tristan de Beer (Alles Malan, Doctor Who) as Roxy and Kyle; two-time Silwerskerm winner Carel Nel (Dwaalster, Hum, Slaaf) as Albert and two-time Vita winner Lida Botha as Hermien; Sihle Mnqwazana, who co-wrote and acted in The Fall, a New York Times critic’s choice play, as Neo; Shalima Mkongi (Isithembiso, Nkululeko, Keeping Score) as Sihle; and Fiesta, Kanna and Fleur du Cape nominee David Viviers (Kanarie) as Leon.

Rage is directed by Jaco Bouwer, a multi-award-winning theatre director who’s one of three Best Director nominees in the drama series category at the 2020 SAFTAs, for Dwaalster. His short film, this country is lonely, premiered at International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2018 and he also directed Die Spreeus, one of the 10 most-watched local series on Showmax in 2019.

Rage has been hailed as ‘briljant’ (Son), “hair raising” (Daily Sun), “gripping” (IOL), “scary as hell” (9Lives), “quite stunning and brilliantly filmed” (Channel24), and “genuinely creepy… one of the best attempts at the genre ever made in this country” (Fortress of Solitude), with Daily Maverick saying it will “scare the living daylights out of you.”

NOUGHTS & CROSSES

Masali Baduza stars in Noughts and Crosses

From 23:30 on Thursdays. Binge from 16 April 

“Over 700 years ago, the Aprican Empire invaded Europe. Aprica colonised the continent and reached as far as Albion. Albion has been under Aprican rule ever since.” 

So begins Noughts + Crosses, a controversial six-part BBC One series based on Malorie Blackman’s multi-award-winning novel. 

South African Masali Baduza (Trackers) and BAFTA winner Jack Rowan (Born To Kill, Peaky Blinders) play Sephy and Callum, two star-crossed lovers in the tradition of Romeo and Juliet. Sephy is the privileged daughter of the Home Secretary, Kamal Hadley, while Callum’s mother, Meggie, is the Hadleys’ housekeeper. While Sephy and Callum grew up together, they may as well have lived in different worlds.

Shot largely in Cape Town with Film Afrika, the series also stars Paterson Joseph (Peep Show, The Leftovers) and South African actress Bonnie Mbuli (Invictus, Wallander) as Sephy’s parents, Kamal and Jasmine, with BAFTA nominee Helen Baxendale (Cold Feet, Emily in Friends) and Tribeca winner Ian Hart (Professor Quirrell in Harry Potter) as Callum’s parents, as well as Josh Dylan (Mamma Mia! Here We Go AgainThe End of the F***ing World) as his brother Jude.

Noughts + Crosses has an 83% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with The Times (UK) calling it “Mesmerising… It’s important, this one. We’ll be talking about it for years.”

UNITED KINGDOM

David Oyelowo stars in A United Kingdom

The year before South Africa formalised Apartheid in 1948, King Seretse Khama (two-time Golden Globe nominee David Oyelowo) of the neighbouring British protectorate of Bechuanaland married a British white woman, Ruth Williams (Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike). This upsets both their families, not to mention the governments of South Africa, South West Africa, Rhodesia and the United Kingdom, who try to declare Khama unfit to rule.  

The opening film of the 2016 BFI London Film Festival, A United Kingdom is more than just a heart-warming true story of love overcoming all odds: it’s also the story of Botswana’s independence, its transition to democracy, and its fight to retain the rights to any diamonds found within its borders. 

Director Amma Asante (The Handmaid’s Tale) won the Black Reel Award for Outstanding World Cinema Motion Picture; Guy Hibbert (Eye in the Sky) won a British Screenwriters’ Award for Best British Feature Film Writing; and South African actress Terry Pheto (Tsotsi) was nominated for a British Independent Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Seretse’s sister, Naledi Khama.

South African actor Vusi Kunene (Isibaya) has a great role as the regent king, Tshekedi Khama, while Jack Davenport (Norrington from Pirates of the Caribbean) and Tom Felton (Harry Potter’s Draco Malfoy) co-star.

A United Kingdom has an 84% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with The Guardian hailing it as “a beautifully shot, crowd-pleasing gem… Its true-life tale of unity in the face of cultural apartheid and political expediency remains as relevant as ever in these divided times, but it is Asante’s talent for making the personal political – and vice versa – that is the real story here.”

FRANK AND FEARLESS

Leon Schuster and Themba Ntuli

If life is feeling too serious for you right now, Showmax has the escapist movie for you: Frank & Fearless, the most recent comedy by South African box office phenomenon Leon Schuster.

When rhino calf Reini is orphaned by poachers, 10-year-old Fearless (Themba Ntuli from Meerkat Maantuig) decides to take action. Teaming up with Sonny Frank (Schuster), a lovable and possibly certifiable rogue, Fearless, Reini and a big black dog set out to find justice for Africa’s last remaining rhinos, gangster-style. Their quest goes horribly wrong when they run into a platoon of merciless poachers but fortunately Africa itself seems to be on their side.

SAFTA winner Kenneth Nkosi (Tsotsi, White Wedding) is head-poacher Dolf and the cast also includes Khanyi Mbau (Happiness is a Four Letter Word), SAFTA nominee Jennifer Steyn (Goodbye BafanaMadam and Eve) and SAFTA winner David Dennis (Soul City, The World Unseen).

As usual for Schuster, Frank & Fearless was the highest grossing South African film of the year in 2018.  

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