Here’s a man’s journey from small-time criminal to powerful crime entrepreneur
South African crime thriller, Jerusalema: Gangster’s Paradise has been released in the UK.
Based on real events, Jerusalema: Gangster’s Paradise takes an unwavering and stylised look into the crime, corruption, and transgressions of the new South Africa. It tells the story of one young man’s journey from small-time criminal in Soweto, to powerful crime entrepreneur over the turbulent years before and after the fall of apartheid.
The film is directed by Ralph Ziman and stars Rapulana Seiphemo (Tsotsi) alongside “District 9” cast members Robert Hobbs, Eugene Khumbanyiwa, Kenneth Nkosi and Louise Saint-Claire.
All Lucky Kunene ever wanted was a BMW 7 series and a house with a sea view. But born in Soweto in the dying years of Apartheid, the odds were stacked against him. When the teenager falls under the spell of a Russian trained, ex ANC soldier, with a vendetta against the old regime, Lucky is propelled on a roller coaster ride from petty crime into heists and bank robberies.
After a daring job goes wrong, Lucky flees the township for Hillbrow, a once wealthy and vibrant Johannesburg district, now run down and decaying. Years later when Lucky’s attempts at going straight are proving just as hazardous, he comes up with a new plan: he sets up a housing trust, and promises the tenants being exploited by greedy landlords a better deal.
In return for their rent, Lucky ruthlessly negotiates with the landlords, and effectively hijacks the properties from under their noses.
Lucky has come of age: a gangster, a crime boss and the most daring entrepreneur in Johannesburg. But the so-called Hoodlum of Hillbrow will have to use all his brains and street smarts to survive this New Paradise. In such a dangerous environment, “If you’re going to steal...Steal big, and hope like hell you get away with it!” Not quite easy!
Ralph Ziman, the film’s Director says that the first time he heard someone had tried to steal a high-rise building in central Johannesburg in broad daylight he was dumbstruck. “How do you steal a building?” he asked himself.
He soon discovered that one smooth operator had stolen literally dozens of them.
“I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. In the crime capital of the world, a city with record numbers of murders, muggings, rapes and car jackings, to name just a few of its’ dubious honours, it was only a matter of time before someone figured out how to steal an entire building!”
Ziman says he had been looking to do a crime story based in the city of his birth for some time and now had his way in.
“I wanted the film, Jerusalema: Gangster’s Paradise, to take a harsh but realistic look at Johannesburg, the city, the people, the place but also to reflect the hopes and aspirations of its’ citizens. In effect, Johannesburg was to become a character within the film itself,” he says.
“Jerusalema: Gangster’s Paradise explores the will of the entrepreneurial spirit to assert itself in the face of degradation and decay. It looks at how law and order are viewed in a country that’s deeply suspicious of the police. A legacy not easily shorn after so much pain. Chronicling the rise to power of a self made millionaire from the slums of Soweto, the film shows how crime has come to pay in the new South Africa. Freedom is slavery, change is opportunity and property is theft. Welcome to the Promised Land...”
Running time: 118 minutes
UK cinema release: Anchor Bay Entertainment UK