This crime thriller,released in cinemas on 28 March, is Gabriel’s second feature movie. Four Corners, which, in gang slang, refers to the four corners of a prison cell, follows four main characters and their separate encounters with gang violence in the Cape Flats until their paths inevitably meet up to create a riveting climax.

The movie was South Africa’s official entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. Unfortunately it did not get nominated.

Four Corners is based on the factual ins and outs of Cape Town’s Number Gangs. It uses the tension between the 26 and 28 gangs to tell the coming of age story of a young boy, Ricardo (Jezriel Skei), on the brink of joining the 26 gang. Ricardo’s story is combined with a story of rehabilitation as his path crosses ex-inmate’s Farakhan (Brendon Daniels), who was once a ruthless general for the 28 gang, but has had enough of the thug life. Together their two stories form the main plot.

One of the subplots sees accomplished South African actor Abduragman Adams in the role of Tito, a dedicated detective in search of a serial killer who murders teenage boys. The extra plot may at first seem redundant but it helps to create a broader reality in which the movie is set, adds to the suspense of the movie and also later contributes to an exciting twist in the story. Another subplot introduces Leila (Lindiwe Matshikiza), a doctor from London who grew up in the Cape Flats and has returned home for her father’s funeral. This plot functions as a light in the dark, showing that there is a life beyond the circumstances of the people living in the Cape Flats.

The successful communication of this complex narrative bears witness to the incredible storytelling skills of not just Gabriel, but also of the screenwriters, Terence Hammond (Last Dance) and Hofmeyr Scholtz.

Aside from the compelling plot, Four Corners portrays the gritty reality of life in the Cape Flats, far from the vague accounts of the papers. It also gives insight into the subculture of the notorious Number Gangs, whose operations and history are not well documented or widely published.

The entire movie is wrought with symbolism and signs attributed specifically to the Number Gangs. This may cause the viewer to get lost in the thick mixture of gang symbolism and it is advisable that viewers do some research on the Number Gangs and their symbols before watching the movie.

The movie is also the first ever to make use of the secret language of the Number Gangs, Sabela, to tell the story. Sabela originated out of the diversity of the prison inmates in South Africa, to enable proper communication between the gangs. It uses a mixture of Afrikaans, English, Zulu and Xhosa, since most gang members can speak one or more of these languages. It also uses a complex code system consisting of words, numbers, symbols and colours. Fortunately English subtitles feature when foreign languages are spoken.

The convincing nature of Four Corners is one of the movie’s most notable elements. The actors, including newcomers sourced from local schools and community projects, create believable characters. Complete with all the right tattoos, the wardrobe and makeup departments also add to the movie’s realism. The movie’s soundtrack, composed by electronic mastermind Markus Wormstorm, combines classy melodies with hip-hop beats to create spot-on portrayals of life on the street.

Living in the Cape Flat gangster community is tough and Gabriel aptly compares it to a game of chess, where every move you make might be your last. He succeeds in sucking us into the four corners of the screen and subsequently the “four corner life” portrayed in the movie, as we watch each game player’s every move, anticipating its outcome while we’re on the edge of our seats.


Rating: 4/5



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