By Loi Awat, Buni.tv
Grandmother Helen makes an unannounced trip to Johannesburg to visit her
granddaughter Aggie (short for Agnes) – but Aggie cannot meet her ‘gogo’
(grandmother) because she is working… Maintaining the lie that she is a student in the city, Aggie promises to visit Gog’Helen at her home in the Thabo Mbeki squatter camp. In actuality, Aggie lives in Johannesburg under the employment of two brothers – both antagonistic and violent pimps – and works as a prostitute. She gets permission from Rodney to visit her gogo for a few hours and makes the trip, albeit with the anxiety of one with a secret occupation that one intends to keep hidden. The old woman is not home but Aggie lets herself in. She notices that Gog’Helen’s mattress is old and worn, so she throws it out and buys a new mattress for her grandmother. However, when Gogo returns and realizes that her mattress is missing, she goes into a frenzy and reveals that her cash savings are stashed in the old mattress. The pair sets out on an action-packed journey to retrieve the mattress from a garbage collection truck – and to save themselves from the clutches of revenge-seeking Rodney, one of Aggie’s pimps.
Gog’Helen and Aggie present a heartwarming family drama as they travel around
Johannesburg with a garbage truck on their nose and a murderous gangster on their tail. The two are separated not only by geographical distance but also by their age difference. When they are brought together by the quest to retrieve the old mattress, Gog’Helen and Aggie are also forced to face the pain of having lost a daughter and mother respectively. The pair finally finds a connection while squeezed into the boot of Rodney’s car, hurtling towards near-certain death.
This movie unites good acting with impressive cinematography. Jet Novuka plays
Rodney in the film. He carries the gangster from his establishment as a domineering big brother to his hysterical and frenzied end. Rodney creates uneasiness in the air around him, and even his employees are uncomfortable in his presence. Kagiso Rakosa also delivers a convincing performance as Aggie, and Lillian Dube’s rendition of Gog’Helen as a beautiful mix of impulsive, courageous, funny and thoughtful is remarkable. Gog’Helen is a refreshingly African movie – from saving money in an old mattress to running into a chicken on the streets as it escapes from slaughter, this movie believably depicts a modern African city. When her grandmother calls, for example, Aggie tells Gog’Helen not to use her mobile phone in town because it would likely be stolen. She says this as an excuse to end the phone call faster, but it is a common warning given in African cities for the fear of phone-snatchers and handbag-grabbers.
The contrast between Gog’Helen’s shantytown and Aggie’s lifestyle in the city speaks to many African youth who are raised in the cities while their grandparents live in smaller towns and villages. Further, the reference to Gog’Helen’s past as a participant in a violent rebellion in Mozambique is an exciting piece of her history, giving credence to her ability to fight and use a gun. While it is similar to many African cities, Johannesburg is also represented in its distinctive spirit – a city in which guns rule the streets and are held not only by policemen and criminals, but also by taxi drivers and occasionally by an unconventional gogo and her granddaughter.
The movie does take a few shortcuts. In a scuffle with in aggressive taxi driver, Aggie
hits him on the head with a solid object and he falls unconscious. He manages to remain unconscious for several hours under the bed in Gog’Helen’s house, only regaining consciousness when it is opportune to save Gog’Helen and Aggie. When a gun goes off in the house, he does not hear it – and neither does Gog’Helen’s nosy and ever-present next-door neighbor.
Still, Gog’Helen is an exciting action-comedy that offers an exciting trip to Johannesburg with a gun-wielding grandmother and her city-bred granddaughter, as they shoot a few bad-guys along the way.
Watch Gog’Helen on Buni+