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A REASONABLE MAN (director/writer: Gavin Hood; cinematographer: Buster Reynolds; editor: Avril Beukes; music: Neill Solomon; cast: Gavin Hood (Sean Raine), Nigel Hawthorne (Judge), Janine Eser (Jennifer), Loyiso Gxwala t (Sipho), Vusi Kunene (Prosecutor Linde), Ken Gampu (Headman); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paul Raleigh/Gavin Hood; Pandora Film; 1999-South Africa/France)
“A quality thinking man’s courtroom drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A quality thinking man’s courtroom drama that questions our judgments over true faith and the Western definition for “a reasonable man.” It’s inspired by a true story in 1933. The drama marks the directorial debut for the talented South African writer-director -star Gavin Hood(“Tsotsi”/”Ender’s Game”/”Eye in the Sky”).

Gavin Hood plays a white South African city corporate lawyer, on vacation to a Zulu national park with his photographer girlfriend (Janine Eser). He ends up while there defending an 18-year-old black herd boy (Loyiso Gxwala) from the rural Zululand, who has killed a one year old baby in the mistaken belief that he was killing an evil spirit–known throughout Southern Africa as the “Tikoloshe.” The strange case leads us to enter the world of African magic to discover in the courtroom what the killing really signifies, as it attempts to make sense of Zulu superstitions in a capital punishment case.

The courtroom action brings to our attention such a unique murder alibi, even if it never quite clears up how witchcraft should be treated in a modern multicultural society.

Vusi Kunene plays the prosecutor, who charges the herd boy of taking a hatchet to the child to sell his body parts. Nigel Hawthorne plays the by-the-book judge, who runs an orderly and fair courtroom. While Hood defends his frightened client by stating how his primitive religious beliefs enticed him to kill.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”