In this conversation, EoM contributor Thomas Manning speaks with director John Barker and actors Jaques De Silva and Shamilla Miller about their film, The Umbrella Men.
An official selection for the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, The Umbrella Men is a South African caper heist comedy that has received positive reviews in South Africa for its representation of the region’s culture. During this discussion, Barker, De Silva, and Miller go into a deep dive of the storytelling process with this film and its emotional resonance to each of them as artists.
If you prefer an audio edition, you can listen to this interview here:
On a reluctant return to Cape Town to bury his estranged father, Jerome (Jaques De Silva) learns he’s been bequeathed the Goema Club, home to his father’s beloved minstrel troupe. The Umbrella Men are a mainstay band in the historic Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, celebrated every year since the early 19th century on January 2, marking the only day off Dutch colonists gave their enslaved captives from across the Indian Ocean (including South and Southeast Asia, Madagascar and Mozambique). Not unlike the creole carnivalesque traditions famous throughout the former Atlantic colonies, Cape Malay bands would merge Indigenous rhythms with settler aesthetics — in this case influenced by the visiting early American minstrels enjoyed by the white settler class. The combined result, “Kaapse Klopse,” as it is known, is considered a celebration of survival.
Along with the club, though, Jerome inherits his father’s enemies — chief among them rival troupe leader Tariq Cupido (Abduragman Adams) — as well as a million-ZAR debt to the bank. With the threat of the club’s foreclosure only weeks away, a desperate Jerome decides a bank heist, using the annual carnival as cover, is the only way to save the club — and his father’s legacy.
World premiere on September 10th, 2022 during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.
Thomas Manning is a member of the NCFCA and SEFCA, and also the co-host of the television show and radio program “Meet Me at the Movies.” He has served as a production assistant and voting member on the Film Selection Committee for the Real to Reel Film Festival. He is currently studying film, television, and English at Gardner-Webb University.