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Movie of the Week

The Letter Reader — on Netflix and Showmax

The short film inspired by Thabo Mbeki’s biography follows a boy who discovers the power of words in an unfamiliar environment.

The Letter Reader is a short film inspired by Thabo Mbeki’s biography, A Dream Deferred. The film was named Best Short Film at The Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2020. Directed by Sibusiso Khuzwayo, The Letter Reader also won Best Short at the 2020 SAFTAs.

The Letter Reader tells the story of Siyabonga (Bahle Mashinini), a 12-year-old boy from Johannesburg who is sent to a village in KwaZulu-Natal to live with his grandmother while his parents sort out their marital problems. Siyabonga struggles to adapt, as he is a city boy not accustomed to doing household chores.

He discovers the power of words as he reads letters that put a smile on people’s faces, until he comes across a letter with bad news. The late Andile Gumbi, best known for playing Simba in The Lion King musical, co-stars, while multiple-SAFTA winner Lance Gewer (Tsotsi, Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word) is director of photography.

“Everyone who believed in the film and the filmmaker Sibusiso Khuzwayo felt that their sacrifices were well worth it,” says producer Cati Weinek. “Short films don’t always get seen on our screens as they are perceived as calling cards for new directors, but this beautiful tale been sold to major streaming platforms.”

South African actor and director John Kani enjoyed the short film, tweeting: “The Letter Reader is indeed a beautiful film, truly an African story.”

The main cast includes:

  • Andile Gumbi as Menzi
  • Bahle Mashinini as Siyabonga
  • Nokuthula Mazibuko as Gogo
  • Nomalanga Shabane as Nobuhle Mthembu
  • Sibongimpilo Sikhosana as Ntombi
  • Muzi Vilakazi as Muzi
  • Martin Edward Ziqubu as Mkhulu

The film is streaming on Netflix and Showmax.

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