Director: Craig Freimond
Cast: Lemogang Tsipa, Grant Swanby, Israel Sipho Matseke Zulu, Emily Child
Age Restriction: 7–9PG
Runtime: 1hr 51min
Release date: 27 April 2017
How many sports dramas on canoeing have you seen or heard about? The water-based sport is a rare commodity in Hollywood, but even rarer in the South African film industry.
Beyond the River attempts to fill these gaps as it's a home-grown film about canoeing. The local film is inspired by the true-life story of Siseko Ntondini and Piers Cruickshanks, who both walked away with a gold medal after competing in the 2014 Dusi – a canoe racing marathon.
Beyond the River follows Duma (Lemogang Tsipa) – a poverty-stricken individual from Soweto who turns to crime to survive. After one close call with the police, Duma is persuaded to return to canoeing – a sport he used to practice when he was younger.
His passion for the sport is reignited after witnessing Steve (Grant Swanby) competing in the Dusi Marathon. After much consideration, Duma decides to compete in the next Dusi and enlists Steve as his partner. As the two train for the significant canoeing event, their lives soon change for the better.
Beyond the River is more than just a film about canoeing; it's also a human story about poverty, crime, loss and overcoming the hardships life has to offer.
Director Craig Freimond, who penned the script along with producer Robbie Thorpe, crafts a character-driven piece which adds heart and emotion.
Duma – in particular – is the most fleshed out character of the film, and Tsipa makes him a likable lead with a standout performance.
Other acting standouts include Emily Child as Steve's wife Annie and Israel Sipho Matseke Zulu as Duma's mentor, Oupa.
While the characters and acting are the film's biggest highlights, the same cannot be said for its uninspired and mediocre plot.
Besides the canoeing aspect, Beyond the River tells a story we've all seen numerous times before; and doesn't really bring anything new to the table.
However, the story is at least adequate enough to entertain – but only on average levels unfortunately.
If there is anything groundbreaking about Beyond the River, it's the canoe aspect of the film. The local production showcases the Dusi Marathon in all its glory; giving audiences a comprehensive look at the canoeing race, as well as successfully transporting viewers into the shoes of its respective participants.
The South African landscapes and locations easily catch the eye, thanks to the film's breathtaking cinematography.
Verdict: Despite its run-of-the-mill plot; local film Beyond the River offers up well-written characters, strong performances, eye-catching cinematography and a deep insight into the world of canoeing.