Boy Called Twist: A South African Adaptation of Oliver Twist
Boy Called Twist is a 2004 film that tells the story of a Cape Town street kid, based on Charles Dickens’ classic 1838 novel Oliver Twist. It was the first film directed by Timothy Greene. Fundraising for the film involved small donations from a thousand investors, leading to the longest Associate Producers listing in the history of cinema.
The film follows Twist’s journey from his mother’s death in childbirth to his escape from a rural orphanage and an abusive undertaker. He arrives in Cape Town, where he joins a gang of child thieves led by Fagin, an ancient Ethiopian Rastafarian. He meets Dodger, Nancy, Bill Sykes and other characters from the original novel, but with a South African twist. He also encounters Ebrahim Bassedien, a wealthy man who has a mysterious connection to Twist’s past.
The film explores themes of poverty, identity, family and social justice in the context of post-apartheid South Africa. It also showcases the diverse culture and scenery of Cape Town, from the slums to the mountains. The film received positive reviews from critics and audiences, and won several awards at local and international film festivals.
Cast and Crew
The film features a talented cast of South African actors, many of whom have gone on to star in other local and international productions. The lead role of Twist is played by Jarrid Geduld, who won the Best Actor award at the Cape Town World Cinema Festival for his performance. He also appeared in the films 10,000 BC and A Lucky Man. Lesley Fong plays Fagin, the leader of the child thieves. He is a veteran actor who has appeared in numerous films and TV shows, such as The Bang Bang Club and The Lab. Bart Fouche plays Bill Sykes, the violent and abusive partner of Nancy. He is known for his roles in District 9, Invictus and Black Sails. Kim Engelbrecht plays Nancy, the prostitute who befriends Twist and tries to help him escape. She is a popular actress who has starred in The Flash, Dominion and Eye in the Sky.
The film was directed by Timothy Greene, who made his debut with this film. He also wrote the screenplay, based on Charles Dickens’ novel. He raised the funds for the film by asking a thousand people to invest R1000 each, resulting in a long list of associate producers. He later directed another South African film, Skeem. The film was produced by Aurelia Driver, Clare van Zyl and Steven Markovitz, who have also produced other acclaimed films such as Viva Riva!, Rafiki and This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection. The cinematography was done by Mike Downie, who captured the beauty and contrast of Cape Town’s landscapes. The film editing was done by Ronelle Loots, who has also edited films such as Tsotsi, U-Carmen eKhayelitsha and Moffie. The music was composed by Murray Anderson, who created a fusion of classical and African sounds.
The film received positive reviews from critics and audiences, who praised its adaptation of the classic novel to the South African context, its cinematography and music, and its performances, especially by Jarrid Geduld and Lesley Fong. The film has a rating of 6.6 out of 10 on IMDb, based on 159 user reviews. Some of the comments include:
“Surprisingly effective update” by JohnSeal
“An engaging look at another side of life in Cape Town” by stevehadd
“A truly excellent film” by serenawardlaw
The film also won several awards at local and international film festivals, such as:
Best Actor (Jarrid Geduld) at the Cape Town World Cinema Festival
Best Film at the Apollo Film Festival
Best South African Film at the Durban International Film Festival
Best Feature Film at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles
Best Director (Tim Greene) at the Zimbabwe International Film Festival