A wild South African adventure in Mill Valley (actually Larkspur): Flatland

Thursday evening, I saw one of the wildest, craziest, and bizarre road movie ever to grace the Mill Valley Film Festival. And it wasn’t even in Mill Valley or San Rafael.

I saw Flatland at the Century Larkspur, probably the easiest Marin County movie theater to get to from the East Bay. It’s a regular multiplex; my guess made in the ’90s. Big screen, good cup holders, and a lot of leg room.

So let’s get on with Flatland.

Some are calling Jenna Bass’ wild road movie a feminist western. I and can see why. It has wide open spaces, a horse, and it climaxes with a shoot-out. Like any good western, it’s a lot of fun to watch. And with its women protagonists and its generally negative view of men, it’s certainly feminist. But unlike conventional westerns, it’s set in modern-day South Africa.

Whatever genre you want to put it into (I’d say a chase film), it’s funny, suspenseful, and surprising at every turn. Unhappily married Natalie (Nicole Fortuin) gets raped by her husband on their wedding night and kills the preacher in self-defense. She goes off on the lam, and teams up with her very pregnant friend Poppie (Izel Bezuidenhout), who goes along for the excitement. Meanwhile, police detective Beauty Cuba (Faith Baloyi) is in love with a man who’s taking the blame for the murder and…well, best not to tell you anymore.
I can tell you that the more the film progresses, the more you understand the relationships between the various people.

Surprisingly for a South African film, race doesn’t play a big part in Flatland. In the opening wedding scene, the preacher is black, the groom is white, and the bride is what apartheid called “colored.” The n-word pops up only once.
I give Flatland an A-.

There was no Q&A after the screening.

You have one more chance to experience this wild ride in the Festival: Saturday, October 12, 2:00, at the Lark. As far as I know, it will not get a regular release in this country. I hope I’m wrong.

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