Necktie Youth
First-time director Sibs Shongwe-La Mer depicts a raw and captivating post-apartheid Johannesburg in Necktie Youth

Necktie Youth, the groundbreaking debut feature from 23-year-old Sibs Shongwe-La Mer, took top honours at the 2015 Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), winning the international jury award for best director as well as the award for best South African feature film.

It was only topped, in the overall category of best feature film, by Sunrise, Partho Sen-Gupta's hard-hitting drama about child sex trafficking in Mumbai.

The DIFF jury described Necktie Youth as "a film desperate to reconcile the seemingly disparate realities of its country, and whose urgent questions about South African life are posed with such mischievous energy that they cannot help provoke debate, itself one of the most important responsibilities of cinema".

Necktie Youth follows two young Johannesburg suburbanites, Jabz and September, as they aimlessly rummage through a day filled with drugs and a melancholic navigation of their suburban, post-apartheid reality.

A suicide that haunts their loosely connected circle of friends anchors this portrait of gilded, affluent South African youth.

"As a member of the first free generation of youths, as well as a son born to a family that places itself among the first of the Western educated and globalized middle class black South Africans, I found myself positioned in a space not often synonymous with Africans. That of privileged, educated, young Zulus," Shongwe La Mer said in his director's statement.

He added that he felt compelled to examine the contrast between what it must have meant to be young during the apartheid era and what it means to be black, young and South African today.

"What is this generation's identity and place in the cosmopolitan world? How does the third and first world exist within this one society, and how does this phenomenon impact social interactions and youth mentality?"

Necktie Youth received glowing reviews after screenings at the Berlin International Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival.

In its review of the film, The Hollywood Reporter called it an "eye opener" that shows "a different side of Johannesburg than the ghettos depicted in films like Tsotsi or Four Corners."

Necktie Youth's screening at the 2015 Durban International Film Festival, which wrapped up on 26 July, was funded by the Gauteng Film Commission.

According to a post on Shongwe-La Mer's Facebook page, the film will open at Ster-Kinekor cinemas, as well as at independent cinema The Bioscope in Maboneng, on 18 September.

Source: staff reporter

Contact the Gauteng Film Commission