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Number 37

Year: 2019
Production Co: Gambit Films
Director: Nosipho Dumisa
Writer: Nosipho Dumisa/Daryne Joshua/Travis Taute
Cast: Irsaah Ally, Monique Rockman

With a gigantic thematic nod to Rear Window, this little South African thriller is a grimy but slick treat. We meet Randal (Irshaad Ally) when he's putting together a scheme with a friend to sell drugs he's obtained from a fearsome local hood at a steep profit, aiming to make a big enough score to set themselves up.

We meet Randal again some time later a shadow of his former self, confined to a wheelchair in his dingy apartment in a Johannesburg slum with his devoted and patient girlfriend Pam (Monique Rockman). Though it's never made explicit, it seems the deal he was planning when we met him went badly wrong, his paraplegia the result.

Pam tries everything to get through to Randal and make him grateful to still be alive, but it isn't until she gives him a pair of binoculars that he starts to take an interest in the world again.

Randal spends his days looking through windows in the neighbourhood, and it's when he witnesses another local crime lord neck a crooked cop and stash a huge amount of money that he hatches an all new scheme – watch the place and send other accomplices he has around town in to execute a blackmail plan to get the money.

Nothing goes right and eventually Pam is caught up in the whole mess, searching through garbage bins for the money with the clock ticking because the collection service is coming, trying to get in and out of apartments before armed gangsters come home, etc.

There's little outright violence but writer/director Nosipho Dumisa is very practiced at the kind of escalating tension that has you wanting to yell 'get out now!' at the screen.

It's also very cleverly designed and edited in that you don't realise until the trouble comes into their own apartment that Randal himself has been in very little danger directly – your building anxiety has been all about the people he's been watching.

It's a low budget film starring actors who are completely unknown outside their own country, and while the performances and money don't quite reach the ambition in every scene, it still punches far above its weight.

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