Red Feather of Death stars Heinz Hoeing as Sam, who is visiting South Africa as a wedding guest. However the wife to be sis suddenly found dead one morning and Sam is implicated in the killing despite being completely innocent. It’s not an original plot by any means by this point but goes off in an interesting direction that raises the film above the more generic murder mystery.
Sam discovers a link to the local ~Zulu community and sets out to investigate. The dead woman had it seems found out something that the Zulus wanted to be kept quiet and had sent her the eponymous red feather to warn of her impending demise. The tribe members have been half collaborating and half fighting against the operation which is a poaching racket, in which the local authorities also turn out to be involved. It’s here that the film starts posing some interesting questions about how complicit the Zulu tribe is in the slaughter of innocent and sometimes endangered animals and how much they can be blamed for pursuing a trade that keep s them alive.
The film is made sensitively towards the Zulus though this can occasionally seem a little condescending, however there are enough questions being posed to gloss over that and the murder mystery itself keep you guessing, the waters being muddied further when an animal rights activist is found to be involved in the case too. Hoeing is very good as Sam making the character sympathetic and likeable with a strong desire to both see justice done as well as to extricate himself from any suspicion. His partner in this quest is Malindi, a Zulu woman played with equal skill by Nambitha Mpulwana, who gives a great deal to the role and manages to lift it above the cliché of second lead , there to ask the questions that the script sometimes descends into.
It’s an educational, thought provoking and entertaining film deftly balancing social comment with the involving storyline and has smooth performances from the entire cast. While not perfect it is certainly worth a watch, particularly if you have an interest in that pert of the world and it’s complex socio political problems.
Director: Hartmut Griesmayr
Cast: Heinz Hoenig, Hansa Czypionka, Walter Kreye, Nambitha Mpumlwana