Contemporary World Cinema

The Number

Khalo Matabane

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In this harrowing, based-on-fact story about South Africa’s most dangerous and notorious prison gang, a high-echelon gang member begins to question his allegiance to his "family" after a young recruit is brutally killed.

It's one of the most dangerous prison gangs in the world: The Numbers. Initiation into this South African criminal network comes at the cost of blood and, once a member is sworn in, the commitment lasts for life. The latest from Khalo Matabane (whose previous feature, State Of Violence, was at the Festival in 2010) takes us into this world of violence to find unexpected places of humanity.

Based on the life of actual gang defector Magadien Wentzel (played by Mothusi Magano, last seen at TIFF in 2013's Of Good Report), The Number finds Magadien at a crossroads. Part of the 28s — the "warrior" faction of The Numbers — Magadien has risen to the upper echelons of power. But when a young recruit is killed, the hardened prisoner begins to question his allegiance to his family on the inside, which has cost him his family on the outside. Now under the watch of a new warden, Magadien has the chance to make early release if he can turn his back on the 28s, and if he can find the strength to face himself.

Matabane draws on his past documentary work to capture the harrowing reality that is life inside while anchoring The Number in Magadien's inner journey. The result is an atmospheric take on the possibility not just of rehabilitation but of redemption.

KIVA REARDON

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