‘Five Fingers for Marseilles’, a contemporary South African Western set in the rugged badlands of the Eastern Cape, will be in official competition at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), to be held from 7 to 17 September. This will also be the film’s world premiere.

TIFF is one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world, attracting more than 480 000 people annually. The film will feature as part of TIFF’s Discovery programme line-up, which highlights up and comers around the world from 35 countries.

Directed by Michael Matthews and written by Sean Drummond, ‘Five Fingers for Marseilles’ is a predominantly Sesotho, Western-inspired tale of an outlaw who returns home after years on the run, and finds a chance for redemption.

“A major motion picture of this scale, complexity and intent has never before been made in South Africa,” says producer Asger Hussain. “It’s the most complex, daring and ambitious undertaking that the local film industry has seen in a very long time. We are extremely excited to have a film of this nature in competition at TIFF. Compared to Berlin, Cannes and even Sundance, Toronto is the one festival that has been known to pick both major crowd pleasers and award winners, including favourites like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘Precious’, and ‘The King’s Speech’.

Vuyo Dabula heads an all-star cast that includes Hamilton Dhlamini, Zethu Dlomo, Kenneth Nkosi, Mduduzi Mabaso, Aubrey Poolo, Lizwi Vilakazi, Warren Masemola, Dean Fourie, Anthony Oseyemi, Brendon Daniels and Jerry Mofokeng. Cast by acclaimed casting director Moonyeenn Lee, the film also features people from local Eastern Cape communities in supporting roles, and introduces to the big screen Toka Mtabane, Vuyo Novokoza, Ntsika Tiyo, Sibusiso Bottoman, Abongile Sithole, and Qhawe Soroshi.

It tells the story of how, 20 years ago, the young ‘Five Fingers’ fought for the rural town of Marseilles, against brutal police oppression. Now, after fleeing in disgrace, Tau returns, seeking peace. Finding the town under new threat, he must reluctantly fight to free it. Will the Five Fingers stand again?

Writer Sean Drummond says the timing of the film is optimal. “Good Westerns always had socio-political undercurrents running through them,” says Drummond. “By putting a highly entertaining, contemporary spin on this South African Western, the film explores subjects that resonate right now with many people.”

‘Five Fingers for Marseilles’ will be released in South Africa by Indigenous Film Distribution. “The film is a perfect fit for the much-respected festival’s independent spirit,” says Helen Kuun, CEO of Indigenous Fil Distribution. “‘Five Fingers for Marseilles’ will screen alongside new works from filmmakers known for taking stylistic and thematic risks with their work.”

‘Five Fingers for Marseilles’ was awarded Best South African Film in Development at the Durban FilmMart’s finance forum in 2013. It was produced by Drummond and Matthews’ Be Phat Motel Film Company and Yaron Schwartzman and Asger Hussain of Game 7 Films, in association with Stage 5 Films and Above the Clouds. 

Schwartzman and Hussain’s previous credits include TIFF competition title ‘The Paperboy’, starring Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey, as well as TIFF 2009 Audience Award winner, ‘Precious’.  ‘Five Fingers for Marseilles’ was also made possible with the backing of South Africa’s National Film & Video Foundation and the Department of Trade and Industry, and with additional support from Dupa Films.

“Given the scale of the film, we are aiming to carve a new a new path for high-value South African films aimed at both a local and world audience,” says Drummond.

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