Man On Ground: A beautiful film about an ugly subject

By Monica Obaga, 

For successful London banker, Ade, a short visit to Johannesburg becomes something more when he finds out his brother, Femi, is missing. They haven’t spoken in years. As the city succumbs to riots, Ade’s search for his brother becomes increasingly difficult.

Man on Ground is a beautiful, intimate film about an ugly subject. The film is inspired by the true events in 2008 when a Mozambican man was burned alive in public, in Johannesburg, to laughing onlookers.

Ade is not an immediately like able character but we root for him because he stays to look for his brother. There are no clear protagonists, and even the antagonists have some humanity.

Every character is layered and has an arc, which is a testament to the writing. No one is used simply as a plot device. Together, their stories create a wave of drama and suspense that will have you surfing all the way to the end credits.

Every frame is an evocative and photographable moment. Every variant shade of brown skin lit expertly. The story moves at a slow, self-assured pace, in juxtaposition to the urgency of the escalating violence and clear danger to the protagonist.

The sound design is gorgeous. This film could teach a master class on using ADR (voice over) to move the story forward. There is a clear motif. Every time a match is lit, I got a clear sense of foreboding.

Man on Ground’s discipline in going over the whys-and-hows of xenophobia in such a deliberate, almost meditative way makes it one of the best films I have yet seen: Beautiful, evocative and unforgettable.

Watch Man on Ground on


Spread love it's the Kenyan way!