Film Review: South Africans own their own historical account in Kalushi

Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu

Solomon Kalushi, like most eighteen-to-twenty year old young men, was just trying to figure out his own identity as a man,  add to that the struggles of trying to survive as a poor black man growing up in an hostile apartheid society of South Africa. 

Kalushi, tells the compelling story of a little known but highly impactful activist, Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu and his short lived, but essential contribution to the South African freedom struggle against racial injustice. 

This historical biopic, written directed and produced by Mandla Dube is special because it is a well-made account of the life of an African hero by an African.  While there have been many African historical biopics in the past, they have mostly been told through the eyes of Europeans and other non-Africans. 

Most of these films often failed to capture the essence and the nuances of the lives that they portrayed on screen. Often making them into these self assured characters, superhero even, that are very difficult to emulate. But the realities are rarely ever quite clear cut.

Dube completely humanizes the lead character, Solomon played by Thabo Rametsi. We get to see his fears, his insecurities, minor triumphs and total humiliation and the myriad of emotions he deals with as he is faced with different challenges at different stages of life.

The overarching theme of this film is Love. Kalushi’s love in particular; his love for jazz music, a passionate love for his girlfriend, Brenda (Pearl Thusi), an endearing love for his older brother, Lucas (Fumani Shilubana), a nurturing love for his mother, Martha (Gcina Mhlophe), misguided love perhaps, for his best friend, Mondy (Thabo Malema) and his greatest of all, a sacrificial love for his country, South Africa. 

This film just felt so authentic with powerful scenes. The story begins from a courtroom drama and as the historical account of events is narrated by the defendant we are taken on a journey that transforms an innocent young man into an armed and dangerous freedom fighter, now on trial for murder under the common purpose law.

One scene in particular jumps out,  as Brenda retells the story of the June 16th bloodbath in Soweto, the viewers become Solomon (who wasn’t there himself), enraged by the account of the massacre.  We feel the same way he does, as he is ignited to fight against oppression

My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them, they must continue the fight.

Solomon Mahlungu

With his life, Mahlangu was able to redefine what it means to be a freedom fighter, even though he never really got the chance to fight nor join in a street protest. His battle though, was taking a stance in a rigged court system for which he paid the ultimate price with his life. There is no doubt though of his impact and contribution towards the South African resistance.

Thabo RametsiSolomon Mahlangu
Thabo MalemaMondy
Welile NzuzaTommy London
Jafta MamaboloLucky
Louw VenterVan Heerden
Fumani ShilubanaLucas Mahlangu
Pearl ThusiBrenda Riviera
Gcina MhlopheMartha Mahlangu
Marcel van HeerdenJudge Theron
Murray ToddMr. Mailer
Clive ScottMr. Bragg
Lawrence JoffeHeller
Shika BudhooPriscilla Jana
Kaseran PillayDawood
Mona MonyaneComrade Eve
Ryan DittmanMr.Hartog
Zweli DubeComrade Papers
Buyile MdladlaGebuza
Siphiwe NkosiDamoyi
Anton DekkerMinister of Police
Gary D’AlessandroCommander Esperanza
Bhekisisa MkhwaneJacob Zuma
9/10
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