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Sundance 2020 Review: “Sadla” (2019) ★★★


It’s no secret that there are both bad and good cops. But for some, every single one of them is bad. Same goes for victims or those who consider themselves as such. But does it mean that each person stopped by the police is innocent or guilty in charge?

The South African short film written and directed by Zamo Mkhwanazi follows Nathi (Kuthula Magubane) as he passes one street after another while witnessing troubling interactions with authority. As he has something to hide, he sees approximately fourteen teenagers being stopped by the police to search for illegal stuff. Nathi is concerned but he does his best to go unnoticed since he knows very well if the police ask him to surrender, he may not escape from them easily.

What is intriguing about “Sadla” is that it does not try to paint Nathi as an innocent boy. In fact, it captures the fear on his face as he knows what could happen to him if he was one of those stopped boys across the street. There was a moment when a police officer notices him but whether he was lucky or had a good day, they decided to leave him alone. But once he is done with his journey, we can tell why he was so afraid. And that’s not because whether he was innocent or not, it is the general distrust in the police forces that dictates his brain on how to act. Unfortunately, the same distrust is what many nowadays experience even though they have done nothing wrong.

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