Abeeda Ariefdien is a 49-year old Muslim woman who wears double scarves, prays five times a day, is a wonderful mother, and a good friend. Left by her husband when she is nine months pregnant at the age of twenty-nine, Abeeda raises her four sons without a father. There is Zane, the eldest, 31, the twins (28), and Reza (27), who is gay. One day Abeeda goes to the casino with a friend, and wins R4,500. She is stunned by the winnings, and soon finds herself going back. Her addiction spirals out of control after she discovers Reza has Aids, and that he is dying. There is also Imran, the man she has loved her whole life and who is married to her sister, Zulpha. At the time they first meet, Imran is engaged to Zulpha, but soon falls in love with Abeeda. When her mother dies, this love affair comes to a head, and to avoid scandal and not to hurt her sister who had already been jilted once before, Abeeda tells Imran that she cannot marry him - that he must go to her sister. She later regrets...Written by
The reviews I've seen so far for this movie have been both kind and misguided. I will be neither.
The bottom line is that this movie is terrible. Properly executed, a good novel can translate very well into a movie. That has not happened in the case of "Confessions of a Gambler".
Rayda Jacobs' novel is an excellent and very important story, and I believe it deserves the talents of a proper filmmaker to do it justice.
I'm no film buff, but even I appreciate technical basics like proper lighting of the subjects and the importance of continuity in a screenplay - both of which are absent here.
What's unfortunate is that I know there are sufficiently skilled local artisans readily available in our industry - we see their work everyday in soapies like "Isidingo", "Egoli" and "Sewende Laan" I can appreciate Jacobs' desire to retain control of her very personal project, but I can't help feeling she has sacrificed quality at the altar of artistic control and achieved nothing but a mirage of authenticity.
She has also introduced a confusing element into the screenplay in that it can't decide whether it is a documentary showcasing Cape Muslim culture, or an honest (and compelling) account of the trials and tribulations of a single mother facing the prospect of loneliness in a family-oriented and heavily ritualised community. All of this as she enters the twilight period of her life.
This story, by itself, is powerful enough to be another "Tsotsi" - better even. So it's interesting to imagine what might have happened in the hands of a Gavin Hood and team of proper actors.
By all means, watch this movie. Local cinema like this needs all the support it can get. Then go home and write reviews on your personal blogs and in the public media, so that our local talent understands that there is indeed a support base for their projects and so that they can receive constructive feedback to help them hone their craft.
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