by Xavier Toby in New Film on Tuesday 3 August 2010

Set in South Africa and billed as Africa’s answer to City of God, Jerusalema forgoes that film’s artistic flourishes and humour, opting instead for a more intellectual storyline. While there are still plenty of shots fired and cars stolen, and a rare insight into how life is for those in South Africa’s slums, the picture is built on a few cuttingly clever core ideas.

Inspired by a true story, Lucky Kunene sets up the Hillbrow People’s Housing Trust in one of Capetown’s most dangerous areas. All the residents agree to pay him the rent, so he kicks out the dealers, pimps and prostitutes, and then holds the rent in trust until the building owners’ make necessary repairs.

The owners end up having to sell, so Lucky purchases the buildings at bargain prices. Although the residents are ecstatic, his bending of the law isn’t popular with the police and the drug dealers. This is a surprisingly powerful film, also notable for the intense and cold violence that, for these people, seems to be part of every day.