Zamo Mkhwanazi’s The Call holds its emotions close to the chest. It is all about the value of life and the choices that come with it, but the film itself is reluctant to make any decisions for the viewer. As if staring at a magic eye puzzle, Mkhwanzi purposely leaves the film ambiguous, daring the audience to come up with their own notions of what lays within.

At the core of the film is Sibongiseni (Fana Mokoena), a sullen Johanneburg taxi driver, who seems to be drifting through life in a fog. A man of few words, he barely acknowledges his passengers, outside of taking their fare, and cannot even muster the energy to chase after a vandal who smashes his cab window. There is obvious something weighing heavily on his mind, but it is not clear at first whether it is the pending funeral of an old friend or something else.

It is only when Purity (Momo Matsunyane), a chatty local prostitute, enters the picture that the fog surrounding the cause of Sibongiseni’s state begins to dissipate. Purity is pregnant and is confident that he is the father. The question is what will he do about it? Similar to the incessantly ringing iPhone, accidently left behind by a passenger, this is Sibongiseni’s wake-up call moment. He is paralyzed by the fear of uncertainty, but can no longer sit idle, he must make a choice. Does he stick with Purity? Should she have the child aborted? Can he live with a decision like that?

The Call does not offer any easy answers to these questions. Zamo Mkhwanazi opts to patiently observe the uncomfortable position Sibongiseni finds himself in. She shows excellent restraint in her overall execution, never succumbing to the temptation to wrap things up with a neat little bow. For life is never that simple. It should also be noted that, despite having hardly any lines himself, Fana Mokoena gives a great performance in the film, using body language to express the inner turmoil his character endures. Confident in its construction and purposely measured in it pacing, The Call effectively announces Zamo Mkhwanazi as a filmmaker to keep an eye on.

Screens as part of Short Cuts Programme 8
Monday, September 14, 9:45 PM, AGO Jackman Hall
Saturday, September 19, 6:45 PM, Scotiabank Theatre

Ticket information can be found at the TIFF website.

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