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South African films often avoid the gritty underbelly of South Africa, opting for the polished Hollywood sheen of Sandton or Cape Town. Dora’s Peace, directed by former cartoonist Kosta Kalarytis, takes audiences into the unedited reality of the Hillbrow underworld, providing a glimpse into the lives of the people who inhabit the world of organised crime.
The film follows Hillbrow prostitute Dora (Khabonina Qubeka), whose age and declining beauty are digging into her client base. When her friend and neighbour, drug addict Connie (Hlubi Mboya), suddenly dies, Dora is left to take care of her son Peace (Paballo Koza), an innocent and talented twelve-year old boy. Dora pretends to be Peace’s aunt to keep him out of police custody. He slowly starts to work his way into Dora’s heart, leaving Dora in a difficult position when his life is put in danger. She is forced to turn to her old friend, the sleazy Greek bookie Stavro (Danny Keogh), for help. Hillbrow’s underworld seems to hide many secrets, some that even Dora would rather keep hidden. In order to look to the future, Dora needs to confront her past.
Both the cinematography and the score are expertly done, taking audiences into the heart of the untamed Hillbrow streets. Mboya’s portrayal of a drug addict is outstanding, almost to the point of disturbing, and rounded off with Keogh’s performance as the powerful bookie paints a gritty yet masterful picture of South Africa’s own brand of organised crime.
Qubeka’s performance is the highlight of the film. She forces you to follow the arduous task of keeping Peace safe, captivating you with her story and ultimately leading you to unexpected emotions. The story is well written and original.
Dora’s Peace is a highly recommend local film that will appeal to a wide variety of people with a unique storyline and thought-provoking characters. year ahead.