“Noem My Skollie” (Call Me Thief), by first-time helmer Daryne Joshua, is South Africa’s submission for the foreign-language Oscar race. It was the only submission from sub-Saharan Africa that will receive consideration for the 89th Academy Awards.
Based on the life of the film’s scriptwriter, John W. Fredericks, “Noem My Skollie” tells the story of a young man in 1960s Cape Town, forced to navigate a world of poverty and violence before being imprisoned for petty crime.
Behind bars, he discovers his skills as a storyteller, finding a way to survive among the jail’s hardened prisoners, while also helping them to rise above the brutal realities of prison life.
After leaving jail, the real-life Fredericks found work as a security guard at a high school in the Cape Flats, a gritty section of Cape Town known for gang violence. He used his storytelling talents to warn teens about the perils of gang life, and later turned to motivational speaking in local prisons before putting his story on the page.
It was a story that struck a chord with Joshua.
“This film pays homage to the power of storytelling,” says the helmer, “a craft I personally owe my life to. To see something so personal resonate with audiences around the country…I’m overwhelmed. And now this, in my opinion, is the highest film honor our country could bestow on us.
“I’m humbled,” he adds.
With a nomination, pic would join previous South African selections “Yesterday” (2005) and 2006 Oscar winner “Tsotsi.”