South Africa’s Sibs Shongwe-La Mer Tapped to Direct Cassian Elwes-Produced ‘Meridian’ (EXCLUSIVE)
Based on an original screenplay by Henderson Hall and Karolina Waclawiak, it’s the story of a priceless Picasso that goes missing from a Nazi bunker after WWII, only to resurface decades later in the small American town of Meridian.
DAZED & CONFUSED: "IS THIS THE SOUTH AFRICAN "KIDS?"
" Necktie Youth offers a sharp critique of modern-day Jo’Burg, from the vantage point of a fairly affluent group whose voice gets drowned out in the media (some would say, justifiably so) by talk of township troubles and thorny Mandela legacies. In Shongwe-La Mer’s film, linguistic and racial diversity are givens – Afrikaans, Zulu and English all coexist (albeit with the occasional spark of tension) – because his generation’s struggle is not one of ethnic inclusion, but rather an existential one, “of finding a united sense of belonging,” he says. “At Tribeca cocktails, people from my government would come up to me and ask: ‘why paint our country in such a negative light?’ I told them that I saw my film as very patriotic because it questions us. If I didn’t care about my country, I’d make something that doesn’t offend as much. But it highlights a reality, and it’s a part of our existence.”
CINEUROPA: NECKTIE YOUTH: "PROBING, POLEMIC AND PROBABLY BEST IN SHOW "
"Thus Necktie Youth drags South African film furiously into the present, wide-eyed and restlessly searching for its next smart fix. Twitchingly contemporary, the film responds directly to post-Apartheid South Africa by drawing on the talents of the director and his friends, as they essentially play themselves. And Mer's exhilarating performance updates our vision of Johannesburg by exploring the consequences of its post-segregation flowering. "
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: "THE FINAL WEEK OF TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL"
" With its striking black-and-white cinematography and visceral tale of youthful disorder, this South African drama marks 23-year-old debut director Sibs Shongwe-La Mer as a talent to watch. The film, set amid an affluent scene of mixed-race kids in Johannesburg, articulates the anxieties of a postapartheid generation, privileged yet adrift, losing itself in a haze of sex, drugs and self-absorption. The angle may feel familiar, but the social perspective is rooted in a new place and the film has style to burn. "
INDIEWIRE: "Drugs and Sex Define 'Necktie Youth,' a South African 'Kids' "
"I fucking hate this city, man. Sometimes I feel like Jo-burg is trying to kill me." So it goes for the millennials of "Necktie Youth" as they wander Johannesburg with hedonistic apathy. 23-year-old Shongwe-La Mer directs a vibrant debut with audacity unique to a young first-timer, allowing his characters to inhabit the cityscapes with no discernible agenda except to capture a societal moment. The result is a one-of-a-kind fever dream of post-Apartheid South Africa."
PITCHFORK/THE DISSOLVE: "SIBS SHONGWE-LA MER ON THE REAL EMOTIONS AND MADE UP SLANG OF NECKTIE YOUTH."
Twenty-three-year-old director Sibs Shongwe-La Mer isn’t just writing what he knows, he’s directing and starring in it, too. His stylish debut feature, Necktie Youth, opens with a girl named Emily leaving a plaintive voicemail message for her boyfriend Jabz (Bonko Cosmo Khoza) shortly before hanging herself, live-streaming her suicide to the Internet.
It’s based on a real incident in Mer’s life, and set in the affluent, elite Johannesburg suburbs where he grew up.