Wild Is the Wind Movie Review: A film about racial prejudice, corruption that asks difficult questions
From racial prejudice to highly repressed human emotions, this violent and complicated South African film deals with its fair share of uncomfortable theme
This dark story set in the South African veldt references racial tensions simmering beneath the surface. Apartheid may have been abolished three decades ago, but there still exists an uneven balance of power between black and white South Africans. And this is no more apparent in its smaller towns.
Vusi (Mothusi Magano) and John (Frank Rautenbach) are senior police detectives in such a place. Though the former is a black South African and the latter an Afrikaner, race has never come in the way of their bond. The duo makes an extra buck on the side to provide for their families. The end justifies the means is a simple rationalisation for their actions. With big plans, the corrupt partners enter the high-stakes game. One night, they kill members of a drug den in an unofficial operation. Vusi offers the seized cocaine to local gang lord called Mongo (Brendon Daniels). As the expensive deal is about to go through, a young white girl is murdered in the veldt. She happens to be the mayor’s niece, and the police department gets caught in a political storm. Despite Vusi’s best efforts to convince him otherwise, John takes personal responsibility for the case, pulling the senior detectives into a widening abyss.
Director: Fabian Medea
Cast: Mothusi Magano, Frank Rautenbach, Brendon Daniels, Chris Chameleon, Mona Monyane, Nicolus Moitoi, Izel Bezuidenhout
Racial prejudice, violence and burgeoning resentment are three key aspects that are central to Wild Is the Wind. In a country that has supposedly transcended its discriminatory past, it doesn’t take long for hatred to flare up. The murder case puts pressure on Vusi and John’s seemingly unbreakable bond. Up until that point, they see eye to eye on most matters. The latter cares about his friend, and even though the complex subject of race is never really discussed at length, he is empathetic to his partner’s struggles. But at the home of the murdered girl’s family, a shift is noticeable. The parents are inconsolable. Outside, Vusi mentions to John that he should have come alone. When asked why, he says that the parents are clearly angry with the “black man” who’s committed the heinous crime, without actually saying it, and that own his presence there only aggravates the situation. John counters by telling him that it’s only natural for them to want answers and that “not everything is about race.” Even earlier, at the station, Vusi tells John to let the case go (that they should take the drug money and leave everything behind). When John says that he has to, Vusi reminds him that it’s only because she’s the mayor’s niece and white that the whole department is on a war footing. When John talks about justice, Vusi responds with, “Justice? How many black children were killed this year? How many of their cases were solved?” It may not be the most appropriate time, but Vusi touches upon an uncomfortable reality.
The interrogation room brings out the worst in the men. What cannot be said openly is somehow alluded to while questioning suspects. Their moral compass is skewed. Strong arm tactics present themselves in its stead. The murdered girl’s abusive, white ex-boyfriend is brought in to the station. Vusi gets rough with him for answers. John does the same to Sonnyboy (Nicolus Moitoi), her black, current boyfriend, when he feels the suspect is manipulating him. The partners confront one another about failing to follow due process (and taking things personally) when, in fact, they’re both at fault. The inability to have an uncomfortable conversation or speak about unhinged reactions or their repressed emotions makes this relationship toxic. Only when put under pressure, does the friendship begin to unravel. All that remains unsaid has the power to pull them apart. Sustained manipulation runs through the narrative, and the ones to suffer the most from this are the men’s spouses. Their corrupt policing from years ago comes back to haunt them in the form of a deranged killer on the loose.
While the acting is outstanding, with an intense Mothusi Magano leading the way, the plot contains one too many holes. For instance, how does Vusi get away with assaulting the mayor (who’s white) when he arrives at his residence to deal with a domestic dispute? If John has a hand in protecting his partner, it is not made clear. Also, how is Vusi able to track down the killer with so much ease across the vast veldt?
This violent and complicated film deals with various uncomfortable themes. From racial prejudice to highly repressed human emotions, everything is presented in a grey, depressing tone. If Vusi and John fail to address the elephant in the room, their personal and professional ties threaten to consume the little light that is left. Another problematic rationalisation is that it’s all about the money… money that will eventually improve their existence. Warped logic, at best.