A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
In Cape Town, one of the most beautiful cities on earth, we meet people who move uncertainly into their own futures. The iron curtain separating the races has lifted and they are all (except one) citizens on equal footing, but Mark Bamford's "Cape of Good Hope" is a post-apartheid film in which the characters are less concerned with politics than with matters of the heart. Of course political and economic concerns drift in (they do whether we admit it or not) but the title is a good one, standing not only for that point at the bottom of Africa where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet, but also for good hope itself, about love, choices, and the future.
The movie belongs to a genre that has been named "hyperlink cinema" by the critic Alissa Quart, in Film Comment. She suggests the structure was invented by Robert Altman, and Altman certainly brought it into modern times and made it particularly useful for showing interlocking stories in a world where lives seem to crash into each other heedlessly. "Crash," indeed, is an example of the genre, as are Altman's "The Player" and "Short Cuts," and such films as "Traffic," "Syriana," "City of God," "Amores Perros" and "Nine Lives."
"Cape of Good Hope" transports the hyperlink movie to South Africa, to show how lives previously divided by race and class now connect more unpredictably. Two women (one white, one Indian) work at an animal shelter with a refugee from the Congo. We meet an African maid and her mother and son, a white veterinarian, an older woman trying to fool herself into romance with a younger man, and others whose lives are more connected than they realize. Most of the hidden connections eventually have positive results; this is a movie with characters we care about, living ordinary lives with reasonable goals.
Kate (Debbie Brown) is the white woman who runs the animal shelter. She has never married, is having an affair with a married man. Her best friend is Sharifa (Quanita Adams), a Muslim woman who works with her at the shelter; Sharifa is married to Habib (David Isaacs), and they are a childless couple who argue over their inability to conceive a child. One day Kate meets young Thabo (Kamo Masilo), a boy who lives in a nearby African township. He has a clever dog named Tupac (when will the hyperlinks end?), and Kate hires him and his dog to entertain at the shelter's open house. Through Thabo we meet his mother Lindiwe (Nthati Moshesh), the maid, and her mother, who is conspiring to marry Lindiwe to an elderly but affluent local minister. Oh, and Kate has dealings with a veterinarian named Morne (Morne Visser), who likes her, although she seems to prefer the detachment of an affair.