A Jo’burg tycoon’s past returns with bitter results in “State of Violence,” which marks an uncertain transition from docs to dramas for writer-director Khalo Matabane. An even blunter message movie than Matabane’s interesting nonfiction work “Conversations on Sunday Afternoon,” pic is best viewed, commercially and artistically, as a political thriller, as the exec faces a legacy of killing from the apartheid era. A rudimentary script and uneven perfs, plus plot details that will cause unintended titters, will make a hard sell in non-South African territories that much harder.

Bobedi (Fana Mokoena) is seemingly on top of the world, but his life comes crashing down when his wife (Lindi Matshikiza) is executed in a house robbery. Cops are nowhere to be seen as Bobedi launches a revenge mission with help from brother Boy-Boy (Presley Chweneyagae), uncovering that the killer is Bobedi’s cousin, unfortunately named OJ (Neo Ntlatleng). In a string of flashbacks that bog the film down considerably, Bobedi is revealed to have murdered OJ’s father, a ruthless cop during the anti-apartheid rebellions in the townships. Bleak ending underlines the film’s insistence that the cycle of violence can’t be broken.

State of Violence

South Africa-France

  • Production: A DV8 Films and Liaison Cinematographique presentation. (International sales: Pyramide Intl., Paris.) Produced by Michelle Wheatley, Jeremy Nathan. Co-producers, Diana Elbaum, Sebastien Delloye. Directed, written by Khalo Matabane.
  • Crew: Camera (color, DV), Matthys Mocke; editor, Audrey Maurion; production designer, Carlu Portwig; costume designer, Maureen Shezi. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 10, 2010. (Also in Berlin Film Festival -- Forum.) Running time: 76 MIN.
  • With: With: Fana Mokoena, Presley Chweneyagae, Neo Ntlatleng, Lindi Matshikiza, Vusi Kunene, Harriet Manamela, Mary Twala. (Zulu, Tsotsitaal, English dialogue)