Sew the Winter to My Skin

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South Africa | 2018 | 131 minutes | Jahmil X.T. Qubeka

A minimal use of dialogue, but stunning panoramic visuals, spins the moody, time-shifting tale of sheep rustler John Kepe, a legendary Robin Hood-like rogue hero in pre-apartheid South Africa.

"This operatically scaled epic delivers plenty of sublimely beautiful moments."—The Hollywood Reporter

The thrilling, operatic legend of John Kepe—who in pre-apartheid South Africa stole livestock from white settler farmers and became the notorious outlaw known as the Samson of the Boschberg—gets the cinematic treatment in Jahmil X.T. Qubeka's 1950s Western. What makes Sew The Winter to My Skin stand out, though, is not only its minimal use of dialogue—"a life of a thief is essentially a silent one," the director explains—but also its vision of this Robin Hood-like rogue hero through the various individuals his escapades affected. As the film jumps around in time, various perspectives of life in the rural Great Karoo region add up to an exquisite portrait not just of a man, but of a time and place just before the country's shameful policy of institutional racial segregation came to be. From the Nazi general obsessed with hunting him down to the white liberal journalist tasked with evaluating his legacy, from the tribe that gave him shelter to the marginalized local population that mythologized him, all are vital in this sweeping saga that was South Africa's official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2019 Academy Awards®.

Marcus Gorman

Director Biography
Xhosa filmmaker Jahmil X.T. Qubeka made headlines in 2013 when his film Of Good Report, scheduled to open that year's Durban International Film Festival, was banned during its first screening for South Africa's Film & Publications Board. He has cited Mel Gibson's video diary for Hamlet as triggering his interest in directing.

Sponsored by KING 5

  • Director: Jahmil X.T. Qubeka
  • Principal Cast: Ezra Mabengeza, Zolisa Xaluva, Bok van Blerk, Mandisa Nduna, Peter Kurth
  • Country: South Africa, Germany
  • Year: 2018
  • Running Time: 131 minutes
  • Producer: Layla Swart
  • Screenplay: Jahmil X.T. Qubeka
  • Cinematographers: Jonathan Kovel
  • Editors: Layla Swart
  • Music: Braam du Toit
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Awards: Golden Horn Awards 2019 (Best Feature Film, Supporting Actress, Achievement in Sound Design) Official Oscar Submission 2019 (Foreign Language Film) Luxor International Film Festival 2019 (Best Artistic Achievement)
  • Filmography: Of Good Report (2013); A Small Town Called Descent (2010)
  • Language: Isixhosa, Afrikaans, English
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • Format: DCP
  • US Distributor: Juno Films
  • International Sales: Rushlake Media