Pup with people
Made by Americans in South Africa, "Cape of Good Hope" is an earnest and sometimes obvious multi-character drama in people say about dogs what they really want to say about people.
By JOSHUA TANZER
Dog lovers will want to give "Cape of Good Hope" an extra star and a half for the way it uses the canine world to slyly comment on the human world. Cat people can probably go either way.
Made in South Africa by the expatriate Aemrican husband-and-wife team of Mark and Suzanne Bamford, the film follows the intersecting lives of a group of people connected to a Good Hope dog-rescue facility. It's run as a labor of love by the attractive and compassionate trust-fund girl Kate (Debbie Brown), with the help of a caring and highly educated Congolese refugee named Jean-Claude (Eriq Ebouaney). The receptionist, a Middle Eastern immigrant named Sharifa, scolds Kate over her affair with a piggish married man while the local veterinarian, Dr. Morne, pines for her silently. Each of these people has additional issues and each of their issues has issues. It's that kind of story.
|CAPE OF GOOD HOPE|
|Directed by: Mark Bamford.|
Written by: Mark Bamford, Suzanne Kay Bamford.
Cast: Debbie Brown, Eriq Ebouaney, Nthati Moshesh, Morne Visser, Quanita Adams, David Isaacs, Kamo Masilo, Nick Boraine, Lillian Dube, Yule Masiteng, Clare Marshall, Gregg Viljoen, Mary-Ann Barlow, Heather Middleton-Banks.
Cinematography: Larry Fong.
Edited by: Tanja Hagen, Frank Reynolds.
In English, Afrikaans and Xhosa with English subtitles.
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The movie is terribly uneven, sometimes making good points in creative ways; other times pursuing some glaringly obvious soap-opera formula like a dog chasing a stick. The film's worst fault although this seems to be common to a lot of African storytelling, so maybe less a fault than a storytelling style that works there better than it works here is its unrealistic 30-second human interactions. Two characters meet, say what they're supposed to say, and that's it. Where a typical American would strive for a fuller scene that gives the characters some depth, the earnest Bamfords have a point to make and no time to waste on patient character development.
But they do manage a certain degree of subtlety and intelligencee when they use the metaphor of dogs to say what they really think about people. When the shelter is given a former police dog that's been trained to attack blacks, the owner warns that its behavior can never be changed but Jean-Claude changes him through kindness, insisting it's merely a learned prejudice that somebody taught the dog "when he was too young to know better." Meanwhile, Kate sighs over the white families who come and insist on adopting rare purebred dogs. "The mutts are much smarter," she comments. ("That's true," an audience member near me concurred out loud.) The film is laced with these sly remarks on dogs that are really about race and society allusions that are probably exceptionally clear to a South African audience. It's the movie's best feature. Judging from their movie, the Bamfords would probably tell you that the way people treat animals is a guide to the way they treat people, and, appropriately, they've made a film in which humanity and caninity go hand in paw.
|JUNE 2, 2005|
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