My reviews of Public African Toilet and Nothing Lasts Forever from the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.
PUBLIC AFRICAN TOILET
Kofi Ofosu-Yeboah’s stunning directorial debut Public Toilet Africa (Amansa tiafi) is a crime film set in Ghana but is a crime film we rarely see nowadays. A mesmerizing, vibe-heavy, slow-burning film that is just as much about the crime at hand as it is about the place it is set and the people who live in it.
Years after her disappearance, Ama returns to the city where she was gifted to a white art collector as a little girl. Her quest to repay an old debt quickly goes on a tailspin when she recruits an ex-lover.
The film’s plot weaves in and out and sometimes gets forgotten during Ama’s journey through Ghana, but it’s the film’s hypnotic vibe and gorgeous look that keep you captivated. Ofosu-Yeboah never forgets that this is a crime movie, and the finale of the film is shocking and surprising I was reminded of the crime films of the French New Wave while watching the film, particularly Jean Luc Godard’s Breathless, particularly in the film’s look and attitude. Briggitte Appiah and David Klu, who play our two leads, are stunning to look at and despite their characters barely speaking, their style and attitude tell you everything you need to know about them and what is happening.
What I appreciated most about the film is how it seeps us into modern Ghana culture. Throughout Ama’s journey, we are taken to different places in Ghana and meet several different people. We meet people like a local politician running for reelection, a stoic judge, and a pair of drunks who cause nothing but chaos wherever they go. Yet with each person we encounter, and a perfectly utilized voiceover, we are engulfed in the culture of Ghana and learn about how politics and neocolonialism affect the country today.
Public Toilet Africa is a crime movie you don’t see made today. Unconventional, hypnotic, immersive, and striking, this is a film that hooked me from the start and shows the promise of a unique and exciting filmmaker in Kofi Ofosu-Yeboah.
NOTHING LASTS FOREVER
We live in a society where a diamond is a symbol. It symbolizes wealth, love, and social status. But what would happen if a diamond’s value completely diminished or vanished entirely? That is the question director Jason Kohn asks in Nothing Lasts Forever, a gripping documentary that plays out like an international thriller.
Kohn constructs the film like a globe-trotting crime thriller, taking us all over the world to show us the world of the diamond trade. We go to India, Africa, all over Europe, and the United States and meet some of the most influential and powerful people in the world of diamond trading. But what Kohn exposes would alter the entire diamond-trading world and change how we value diamonds altogether.
Kohn’s investigation focuses on the difference between “real” diamonds that are found in the Earth and synthetic diamonds, which are diamonds that are created in a lab. Synthetic diamonds are technically diamonds. They are made from the same materials as Earth-made diamonds and they look exactly the same. The major difference is that synthetic diamonds are exponentially cheaper than Earth-made diamonds, thus posing a threat in the market. But in a shocking discovery, Kohn finds out that synthetic diamonds might be more popular in the diamond market than we think, yet are being sold as regular diamonds at the same price. It really brings into question our values on a rock and the global conspiracy behind it.
Nothing Lasts Forever is an eye-opening and gripping documentary that will leave you in shock and have you thinking about what you just witnessed long after the credits roll.
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