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When South African director John Barker was seven years old, the Johannesburg native experienced Cape Town’s minstrel carnival for the first time. The annual celebration, rooted in slave traditions dating back to the early years of colonial rule, is a colorful, tumultuous pageant unique to the Mother City — an event that Barker would later bring to the big screen 14 Will spend the year.

“The Umbrella Man” premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last fall, 16 years after Barker’s 2006 debut, “Bunny Chow,” debuted at the prestigious North American festival. Barker’s fifth feature was the closing film at this week’s Joburg Film Festival, which wrapped up in the South African city on February 5.

“The Umbrella Man” is set in Bo-Kap, a formerly segregated Cape Town neighborhood that is home to the city’s Cape Malay community, where hip-hop producer Jerome Adams (Jacques De Silva) attends the funeral of his estranged father. are back for Upon arriving in Johannesburg, Adams learns that he has inherited his father’s beloved jazz club and the stewardship of the legendary Umbrella Men minstrel group, a musical group that performs annually during Carnival.

He also inherited a pile of debt, with just days to pay it off before the bank forecloses on the club. which sets in motion a plot inspired by classic caper films such as Jonathan Glazer’s “Sexiest Beast” and Peter Collinson’s “The Italian Job” as Adams assembles a crew to pull off a daring heist during a carnival. .

There is just one small problem. “These guys aren’t bank robbers — they’re musicians,” Barker said. “You know they’re going to mess it up, and [the question is] Will they pull it off?”

“The Umbrella Man” was inspired by classic heist films such as “The Italian Job.”
Courtesy of Renowned Associates

The bank job juxtaposes Adams’ emotional journey as he struggles to reconcile his flight from Bo-Kop with his complicated relationship with his late father, a beloved member of the local community who in his life has cast a long shadow over the path of the older son. – especially in his determination to keep alive the minstrel carnival tradition.

“It was important to this community that Carnival survived through colonialism and apartheid. Carnival is a symbol of freedom,” Barker said. has a birthright and belongs to this Cape Malay community.” For the younger Adams, finding the missing love with his father meant reconnecting with the culture and community he left behind.

The son of a soccer coach and anti-apartheid activist, Barker spent years as a young boy traveling around South Africa with his father, visiting slums across the country as well as Cape Town’s famous District Six. Visited: A bohemian neighborhood that was demolished. Apartheid was hated and feared as a symbol of assimilation.

To bring the vibrant Cape Malay community to life in “The Umbrella Man,” Barker consulted with cast member Joey Rasdin, who plays an ex-con on the run from the police, and recording artist Lokman Adams, from the Bo-Kap community. With two members. Strong ties with local minstrel groups.

The script went through community leaders, while the production was filmed with the Cape Malay crew, including the assistant director and all department heads. “We were very conscious of making sure that we put all the people in front of the cameras that were going to be talked about in the film, and also behind the cameras,” Barker said.

Production is already underway on a sequel, “Umbrellas,” which is part of a multi-picture licensing deal signed this week between Amazon Prime Video and film production company Known Associates, giving the streaming service exclusive SVOD from 20 Access to more south is given. African feature films.

Shortly after the first feature wrapped, “Umbrellas” involves a plot to break the gang out of prison after being put behind bars. Much of the action is filmed on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years under the apartheid regime, and — in the spirit of a good heist — brings back the cast and production team behind the first film.

“We got the whole crew back,” Barker said with a laugh.

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