Man on Ground

A cross-hybridization of BBC police thriller and Bergmanesque meditation on intra-African immigration.

With: Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Fabian Adeoye Lojede, Fana Mokoena, Makhoala Ndebele, Thisiwe Ziqubu. (English, Yoruba, Sotho, Zulu dialogue)

A cross-hybridization of BBC police thriller and Bergmanesque meditation on intra-African immigration, “Man on Ground” boasts some literally fantastic visual flourishes as well as a bewildering inability to find narrative traction. Helmer Akin Omotoso is a stylist of considerable flair, but the pic’s storytelling is too obscure and indulgent to catch on in foreign markets, despite an attractive a cast and moments of brilliance.

The tale is essentially a missing person’s story about estranged Nigerian brothers: Ade (Hakeem Kae-Kazim), a London-based banker, and Femi (Fabian Adeoye Lojede), a political radical who’s been imprisoned, tortured, run out of his home country, and is last seen living the street life in Johannesburg. When Femi goes missing, Ade tries to find him, and the search — as elliptical and blind-alleyed as anything by Bunuel — provides the bulk of the storyline. Ultimately, “Man on Ground” is a mismatch of content and directorial panache: Omotoso is inclined to long, lingering takes and slo-mo action, which only punctuates the point that so little is going on. The film’s brightest spot is Thisiwe Ziqubu, who plays Femi’s fiancee, Zodwa, and is a talent to watch.

Man on Ground

South Africa

Production: A TOM Pictures, 1Take Media, Hashayaafric Prods., Chrisdon Prods., Rosie Motene Prods. presentation. Produced by Motene, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Fabian Adeoye Lojede, Mickey Madoda Dube, Robbie Thorpe, Kgomotso Matsunyane, Akin Omotoso. Executive producers, A.K Tshabalala, Christian Obinna Okoene, Onwe Douglas Christian, Ekeh Kelechi Frederick. Directed, written by Akin Omotoso.

Crew: Camera (color, HD cam), Paul Michelson; editor, Aryan Kaganof; music, Amu; production designer, Martha Sibayoni. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 9. 2011. Running time: 88 MIN.

With: With: Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Fabian Adeoye Lojede, Fana Mokoena, Makhoala Ndebele, Thisiwe Ziqubu. (English, Yoruba, Sotho, Zulu dialogue)

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