Wonder Boy for President a Riot of Laughs

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***SPOILER ALERT***

I never thought that one day I would be sitting in a cinema, seriously considering the prospect of a comedian as a presidential candidate. But after watching Wonder Boy for President, a film written, directed and produced by John Barker, with comedian Kagiso Lediga attached as producer, that might actually become a reality. Not only were their filmmaking techniques short of insane, but they managed to pull it off – and really well, too.

Here are the basics: Lediga is Wonder Boy, a mythical creature who emerges from the depths of the Indian Ocean in the Eastern Cape. A charismatic young man who is popular with the people, he is coerced into running for president by two dubious and corrupt ANC officials, Brutus (Tony B Miyambo) and Shakes (Ntobeko Ntosh Madlingozi). Their aim is to groom him as the next big thing in politics, but things soon go haywire when they realise he’s a bit too honest for their liking – not to mention his absolutely horrifying love affair with DA Youth League leader Mbale Sithole (Thishiwe Ziqubu).

The film’s conception and creation is just as incredible and satirically charged as the storyline. Taking the form of a mockumentary, Wonder Boy for President uses guerrilla film tactics not only as a way to deal with the micro-budget it was shot on, but also as a way in which to create a cocoon of reality for viewers. It was shot over the course of five years, and includes an assasination scene that piggybacked on an actual ANC rally at the FNB stadium with 90 000 people, a retinue of the country’s leaders, and, of course, Kagiso making his now almost infamous three-finger Wonder Boy sign to tens of thousands of slightly confused and unsuspecting onlookers. It includes ‘cameos’ from Zille, Zuma, Maimane, Malema, Zapiro, Ramaphosa and many of South Africa’s political giants, and overall is a very intelligent and roaringly funny look at how absurd our South African government can be.

I simply could not stop laughing when Brutus asks John Vlismas – a dodgy assassin hired to take Wonder Boy out – if he’s registered as an official vendor for the party. Or when Wonder Boy learns how to critique fine art, or when he debates the DA’s formidable Mbale on stage, or, or, or… the list goes on.

Many of SA’s comedic spirits were involved in this production in some way or another. Loyiso Gola ‘critiqued’ Wonder Boy on the news, Lara Lipschitz is Kerry Mercer, a journalist sleeping her way to the next big story, and Tell Me Sweet Something’s Akin Otomoso is a Nigerian passerby on the street. John Barker himself plays a dodgy construction guy at some point.

I truly am impressed, not only by the calibre of artists and the quality of production – especially considering this was long labour of love – but also how they manage to get under your skin in the best way possible. Right after the 89-minute DIFF premiere at the Playhouse on Friday, 17 June, the cast and crew had a Q&A session. The session proved this film is what I like to call a ‘Napoleon Dynamite’: you’ll either love it, or hate it completely. And I loved it. Props to all the writers – John Barker, Camillo Saloojee, Christopher Steenkamp and Saki Bergh – for their ability to create such a riveting satirical comedy, and to the comedians themselves whose improv made it the incredible laugh that it is.

As a final blow to politics as we know it, Wonder Boy for President will be released in cinemas across the country just before the municipal elections in August, so you’re sure to hear more about it in the papers very soon. For more info, visit their Facebook page.

 

Written by Kim Crowie | All images copyright Wonder Boy for President

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