Directed by Mandla Dube, Silverton Siege is based on a true story of a failed sabotage mission that turned into a bank-hostage situation.
While on a high-profile mission to sabotage a petrol depot at Watloo near Mamelodi, a trio of freedom fighters, Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), realize they have been set up, with police ready and waiting to arrest them. After a deadly chase ensues, the trio takes refuge inside a branch of Volkskas Bank in Silverton, Pretoria. From there, the trio is faced with a myriad of difficult decisions – some that will change their lives and some that will change the country.
The actual event took place on January 25, 1980. The names of the three MK Cadres – Stephen Mafoko, Humphrey Makhubo, and Wilfred Madela are not used in the film. The names Calvin Khumalo, Aldo Erasmus, and Mbali Terra are used in their place. What took place as three men originally, was adapted to two men and a woman, and I have to say, Mbali (who went by Terra) was just as fierce as any man would’ve been in that situation.
While the majority of the film is in English, there are several scenes where the police and even the trio themselves are speaking Afrikaans. While subtitles are present in English translation, my ears perked up immediately with a sense of familiarity. Whilst reading those subtitles in English, I thought my ears were hearing Dutch. Zwarte literally means ‘black’ and is what black people were called back then and even now. Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch and at one point, the two official languages in South Africa were English and Dutch. Afrikaans was introduced in the early 1920s and would eventually replace it.
The most recognizable face in the film is Arnold Vosloo, who played a policeman named Johan Langerman. While you may not recognize his name, you’ve definitely seen him before. When I noticed him I immediately thought, “Why are you here and not with Anck Su Namun?” If you’ve ever seen any of The Mummy films, you’ll get that reference. Vosloo, a South African himself, was quoted recently as wanting to tell South African stories and does an excellent job in this film.
Noxolo Dlamini (Terra) and Thabo Rametsi (Calvin) are the main stars of the film. While Calvin is the clear leader of the three, it was Terra that impressed the most. Showing a wide range of emotions from love happiness, patience, and anger, Dlamini’s performance was truly memorable.
Silverton Siege gets an 8 out of 10. It tells a real story that kicked off a movement that changed the world while altering just a handful of surface details (like replacing one of the original men with a woman for the movie). There are several intense conversations that took place onscreen, including the meaning of freedom and its cost, as well as what it means to be black. By the end of the film, your thoughts on who’s the hero and who’s the villain may have changed…
Silverton Siege is available now globally on Netflix
Photos: Courtesy of Netflix