June 3, 2019  (Web Review)

Hostage

IndiePix, 74 min., in Zulu w/English subtitles, not rated, DVD: $19.95

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Filmmaker Michele Hartslief’s 1980 crime melodrama, one of the latest releases in IndiePix’s “Retro Afrika” series showcasing films made for black audiences with the support of the South African government during the era of apartheid, is more technically proficient than many others in the series, with mostly solid camerawork and editing. Hostage also differs in being set not in the impoverished townships where blacks were forced to live, but in middle-class suburban areas where they would aspire to own houses. The plot, however, is sheer B-movie hokum. Ben, the owner of a dockside warehouse, is blackmailed by gangster Jack, who wants to use the building for drug shipments. When Ben refuses, Jack has his moll drug Ben and take photos of him with her in compromising positions. Ben’s wife Thuli accepts his explanation that the pictures were staged, but when he and his friend Michael then take action to foil Jack’s schemes, Jack retaliates by kidnapping Thuli, and they must rescue her. While somewhat superior technically to previous releases in this series, Hostage is still primarily important as a historical curio of an era in South Africa that is thankfully in the past. A strong optional purchase. (F. Swietek)