By Anna Cocks
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 8 of VARSITY News.
We live in a time of globalisation where people, cultures and businesses are interconnected. Media and television play a huge role in deepening these globalised relationships as well as establishing them. The West (primarily Hollywood) has been the ultimate provider of TV entertainment, even in the new-age of streaming (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, DSTV catch-up.) They form, what Professor Herman Wasserman (Director of the Centre for Film and Media Studies) calls ‘media imperialism.’ They determine the transnational flows of media content and capital from the west to the rest of the world.
But now is the time for the ‘rise of the rest’. South Africa has had access to Netflix since 2016 but unlike Britain, who have regulated that 30% of local content be shown on their Netflix, South Africa has released no local content to the streaming website… until now. Two South African produced series are hitting Netflix: Shadow and Queen Sono.
Netflix released the action series, Shadow, in March this year. The series follows an ex-detective and task force member, Shadrach “Shadow” Khumalo (played by Pallance Dladla,) who sails through Johannesburg pursuing justice and protecting the powerless. Shadow has special powers as a physical condition prevents his central nervous system form feeling pain. The series features famous South African actors such as Khathu Ramabulana and Amanda Du Pont.
Shadow, directed by Gareth Crocker (from Motion Story Productions), has received much criticism for its plot line with critics like Rhodé Marshall pointing out that, “Shadow was very clearly made for television, not streaming.” Although Shadow is one of the first South-African-produced series to appear on Netflix, Marshall states, “Perhaps local production companies still need to get used to the needs of streaming audiences.” Despite these critiques, Shadow is sitting with a 6.5/10 on IMDb.
Queen Sono, played by Pearl Thusi, is a spy working for an undercover South African agency with the aim of protecting the people of Africa. This six-part action-packed thriller series is being produced by the Johannesburg-based production company, Diprente, under the directorship of Kagiso Lediga (named as one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People of 2019) and Tebogo Malope (Cannes Lions and SAFTA award winner.) The series is expected to be released on Netflix in January next year.
Though South African produced series are often critiqued for portraying poor acting skills or for trying to please the global elites in its production, one should praise these series for attempting to compete in the global market. Well done to South Africa for stepping out, creating their own content and for attempting to influence global markets with that unique African style.