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Why the Netflix funded South African film “Santana” is receiving harsh reviews

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The story of a young girl whose sister is abducted as a child leaving her family distorted to the point of being deranged glued many people to their screens. The creative, dynamic and intense teenage high school drama also aided the story’s popularity making it a 2020 success. In the episode during which Sho Majodzi’s song “John Cena” plays as the background tune for an unstable scene depicting pure frustration also contributed to the love churned due to the relation of this story. South Africa graced Netflix with a phenomenal film that told a relatable tale pertaining youths today. The fact that an African bred film was showcased on Netflix was simply the cherry on top of a fruit cake. “Blood and Water” clearly quaked the film the industry, making a name for the African film industry.

Several films followed suit and amidst them was “Santana”. Unfortunately, the same warm reaction that emanated from the story of “Blood and Water” was not felt in this Angolan action film. It received a lot of harsh reviews following its release in 15th May 2020. Despite its early release, many people are only recently becoming aware of its presence. A number of critics recently relayed their views, some completely tearing the film into pieces.

Directed by a young director, Maradona Dias Dos Santos, “Santana” was filmed in Angola with a budget of $2,600,000. Some critics recognized the effort put in the film saying that the trial was commendable. Others simply called it a waste of time.

Let’s see why this film is receiving scathing reviews.

“Santana’s” storyline

An action film rarely has a lot going on apart from a mind numbing, nerve agitating, adrenaline pumping action scenes. All the audience wants to see from this particular genre is agile movement, hyperbolic fighting scenes, tears, blood and gore. Well “Santana” certainly has action scenes with guns, grenades and catapulting uppercuts but the delivery of all of this is obviously wanting.

The story revolves around two brothers who got separated after the death of their parents. One brother got adopted and later joined the army becoming a distinguished general. Although he recalled his parents, their memory floated at the rear ends of his brain. The other brother, on the other hand, was not as fortunate. He bounced around group homes, the foster care system hardening him at a very young age. He finds refuge in liquor and savours the drink’s searing taste whenever he can. The memory of his parents is a nightmare for him and he swiftly morphs it into an obsession. He decides to serve his country like his brother and winds up a narcotics agent, the commander of a special unit of the Angolan police force.

Matias (Raul Rosario) and Dias (Paulo Americano) find their paths crossing when they are forced to work together so as to take down a drug lord who just so happens to be the man behind the death of these men’s parents. Following this new discovery, Dias’ obsession channels itself into vengeance and Matias is forced to keep his brother in check as he seeks for justice instead. One brother wants to kill the drug lord while the other wants to see him safely behind bars. The brothers don’t see eye to eye, they lead completely different lifestyles and they don’t consider themselves brothers at all. Bickering soon shifts into fist fights, as each brother tussles for their goal. The root relationship between the brothers is showed later but it’s easy to unravel this fact as the story unfolds.
Now the premise is quite interesting and it clearly requires character depth which the film is lacking. However, the story itself has an undeniable intrigue and is worth the sit down.

Critics arising from the film

Now TechQuila is a site known for its excellent film reviews making it quite popular. It recently released a gut wrenching review on “Santana” that left many discouraged to even attempt the movie.

The writer complains about a plethora of things. He starts of by stating the lack of clarity in the plot. He expresses his face pinching views on explicit scenes that don’t necessarily contribute to the plot. He goes on to criticize the action scenes claiming that the film actors simply don’t put an effort to capture their audience. He pointed out the delivery of the dialogue saying that the actors sounded utterly “disinterested”. He most especially called out the lead characters saying that they lacked expression, something crucial to their personas. These are but some of the things the writer oh so crudely pointed out. There was also the matter of poor CGI, lack of well molded characters and predictable flow of the plot.

He wound up his review by saying, “Santana does not do anything right. It is boring, predictable, and terribly acted. And at 1hour 46 minutes, it is entirely too long.”

Ouch! He really let them have it! All in all, try not to judge it before taking a glimpse of it. The Angolan film industry is still growing, this is just the beginning. I am positive their next film will be better executed in all areas.
IMDb had an interesting positive take on the film with one critic saying that this film was a major trial with some scenes well directed. She did, however, complain about the fleshing out of characters and action scenes.

This positive reinforcement is a sign of hope for the African film industry. Plus, Netflix would have never funded this film if they didn’t see potential in it.


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