Thirteen-year-old Ricardo Galam (Jezzriel Skei) is a fatherless chess prodigy who lives with his grandmother in the Cape Flats. Torn between his love for chess and his interest in the 26 gang, cultivated by gang leader Gasant (Irshaad Ally), Ricardo finds himself caught up in circumstances beyond control when his father, Farakhan (Brendan Daniels), a reformed general of the rival 28 gang, moves into the 26-controlled neighbourhood and begins his search for his son. There is also a seondary storyline involving the search for a serial killer preying on young boys, led by veteran cop Tito (Abduragman Adams).
The cast is a mix of of seasoned actors and newcomers with no previous experience. One of the most remarkable characters is not really a character, but an actual prisoner playing himself. One of the standouts is Ricardo, whose baby face gives him an innocence that makes it obvious how unsuited he is to the life of a gangster. Gasant is another fascinating character, driven almost mad by his thirst for vengeance. Tito, on a quest to find the serial killer before he strikes again, also gives a memorable performance.
Considering the current reports of violence in the Cape Flats appearing frequently in the news cycle, Four Corners’ release is well-timed. The film gives us an insight into life on the Flats and gives names and faces to the gangs. We see what drives young boys to to gang life and how the conflict between the gangs touches every part of the community.
Yet, Four Corners is not simply a story about gang rivalry. At its core, it is about family. Farakhan wants to find his son; Gasant wants vengeance for his brother’s murder; Leila (Lindiwe Matshikiza) has returned to South Africa for her estranged father’s funeral; the fatherless Ricardo seems to be seeking family in the form of belonging to the 26 gang.
The film is visually stunning, with shots of cloud rolling off Table Mountain. Yet there is also beauty in ugliness: the images of the Flats in the dawn light, a face covered in prison tattoos.
This is not a film for sensitive viewers. There are on-screen murders, lots of blood, foul language, violence toward minors, and on-screen drug deals taking place. Not exactly a date night kind of movie, but one that is guaranteed to leave you thinking about the characters and events for days after you watch it.
Four Corners opens in South African cinemas on Friday, 28 March. Do yourself a favour and watch it.