of-good-report-001It’s fair to say that when you discover a film has been banned in its respective country of origin, intrigue kicks in as you wonder what it was about this particular feature that caused so much controversy. However it only takes a mere matter of seconds to work it out in Jahmil X.T. Qubeka’s Of Good Report, as this South African picture begins with a man picking bits of metal out of his skull – and from this point onwards, the shock factor grows to become more intense, and more severe.

The man in question is Parker Sithole (Mothusi Magano), an introverted high school teacher who arrives in town on the hunt for a new job. However he gets more than he bargained for when he enters in to a passionate, sexual affair with his student Nolitha (Petronella Tshuma). Though unaware she’s a student of his to begin with, that doesn’t stop Parker becoming obsessed with the seductive juvenile – an obsession that takes him to dark and dangerous places. He may have arrived at his new job, described as being ‘of good report’ – but he’s all set to leave in a somewhat different fashion.

The film begins much as it carries on, setting the tone for a disquieting and uncomfortable feature film – helped along with an experimental soundtrack that bears similarities to somebody running their nails along a chalk board. A foreboding atmosphere is created also, as given the opening act it becomes evidently apparent that things do not turn out particularly well for our protagonist. He’s a fascinating lead role nonetheless, diffidently disturbed yet fragile and pitiful – and we don’t hear him utter a single word in the entire movie. We hear him laugh and we hear him cry, but this unique technique to deprive him of any dialogue is one to divide opinions, as in many respects it makes Parker this unpredictable enigma that we can’t control. On the other hand, you want to hear him talk to allow him the chance to bring justification to his untoward actions.

Qubeka does help us get into the lead’s head however, as we begin in the first person, embodying Parker and seeing the world form his perspective. It’s a very intimate portrayal of this man, we see him bathing early on and we see him masturbating too – bringing us closer to a man who others struggle to comprehend. It’s a wonderful lead performance too, as Magano tells a thousand stories in just his facial expressions alone. To convey his message across, his acting becomes exaggerated and over the top, but it suits the overstated nature of the film. It’s essential this be the case, because it makes the picture surreal and therefore detracts from the severity of the themes at hand, while at times the film becomes almost slapstick, which makes this all the more sinister.

Of Good Report can perhaps be accused of being a little contrived in its contentious approach – at times being shocking for the sake of being shocking. It’s unsubtle in that respect, but Qubeka has dressed up this film in such stylish, unforgettable aesthetic, it can be excused in various instances. There’s also something very poignant about a South African film being shot in black and white – as this profound and experimental picture is bound to one that sticks with you for days. Though whether you quite want this one playing over and over again in your head is another matter altogether.