Friday, 29 January 2016

REVIEW - GOLD COAST (DANIEL DENCIK)


I admire Daniel Dencik. I think he's a decent director. He knows where to place his camera. He knows how to elicit strong performances from his entire cast of actors. He knows how to instill a palpable sense of place and atmosphere in his films. But I don't admire Gold Coast. It both undermines his skill and draws attention to the deficiencies therein. It provides obvious opportunities for technical excellence, and a wealth of meaty characters for select members of its ensemble, but stops far short of providing similar opportunities for greatness - the kind of greatness to which surely all historical epics aspire. On these grounds, Gold Coast is a tolerable effort, neither as good as it wants to be nor as bad as it could have been. On broader grounds, however, it transpires that it is only said technical excellence, and said strong performances from the cast that keep Gold Coast afloat - its most damning deficiency resides in the very core of its conceit. Alas, this is yet another cinematic paean to white triumph, a film that exalts its Caucasian hero above all others, only praising its native African characters for exceeding what lowly expectations we're primed to have of them. The white man struggles and we're supposed to feel for him, he becomes enlightened and we're supposed to respect him, he only doesn't abuse the slaves he nevertheless maintains and we're supposed to applaud him; is there not something fundamentally awry when a majority of a film's ensemble is black and yet we're only supposed to even notice them when its white leads do? The intentions in Dencik and Sara Isabella Jonsson Vedde's screenplay are as respectful as they are reductive, and plainly ignorant. Only for the adequacy of Daniel Dencik's technique and the commitment of Jakob Oftebro (pants literally clinging to peen) in the lead, does Gold Coast survive the impossible challenge it sets itself: how to be a good movie when you're also racist as fuck?