Review written by Tiisetso Dladla
‘Five Tiger’, a South African slang term used to identify the fifty-rand note, premiered during the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. The cleverly titled short film helmed by South African filmmaker Nomawonga Khumalo, tells the story of Fiona (Ayanda Seoka), a god-fearing woman who, in an effort to support her family, finds herself in a transactional relationship. The director’s deft but gentle approach reveals the costliness of attaining the note and the fruitless, unjust ways it is consumed.
Khumalo’s narratively efficient script explores the destructive roles that capitalism and religion play in the life of the female protagonist and her efforts to survive the fallout. The story attempts to balance the themes of poverty and despair versus hope and resilience but the latter is in short supply. A single frame depicts both the cinematic movement of wind blowing through the luscious cane fields and the sound of Fiona’s cries masked by her blade hacking over the crop. Ayanda Seoka’s internal and layered performance carries the film’s emotional arch masterfully.