UMSHINI WAM : NINJA & YOLANDE ON WHEELZ
Upon reviewing Harmony Korine’s 1999 film Julien Donkey-Boy, esteemed film critic Roger Ebert placed Korine amongst the most significant of all film artists saying he: “belongs on the list with Godard, Cassavetes, Herzog, Warhol, Tarkovsky, Brakhage and others…” going on to call him “…the real thing, an innovative and gifted filmmaker whose work forces us to see on his terms.”
So, true to form, Korine‘s latest release is Umshini Wam (Bring Me My Machine Gun) a short film starring South African Rave-Rap artists Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er from Die Antwoord. The film tells the story of two wheelchair bound ‘gangstas’, who shoot guns, sleep in the woods, wear bright coloured jumpsuits and smoke massive joints with the ultimate goal of obtaining some serious credibility by upgrading their wheelchairs.
Harmony Korine is keeping it real, but perhaps this is not what Ebert meant by “the real thing” twelve years ago. Umshini Wam doesn’t entirely fit with the art film credentials Korine was known for with Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy; this film is pure, ridiculous, undiluted entertainment. This said the film makes good use of its two peculiar lead actors, has a great soundtrack courtesy of the unseen member of Die Antwoord DJ Hi-Tek and cinematography by Alexis Zabe who shot Silent Light with Mexican auteur Carlos Reygadas.
While it is hard to imagine Roger Ebert consigning this film next to those of Tarkovsky it is fair to say that Korine is consistent in creating work unlike anyone else. For what it’s worth Umshini Wam is a fun addition to the predictably unpredictable career of Harmony Korine and reports suggest that there is more to look forward to, as Korine is in talks with James Franco to make a film involving real life gang fights. I’ll believe it when I see it.
WATCH UMSHINI WAM
By TOM COTTEY