Dingaka (1965)

 

 

Director:     Jamie Uys.

Starring:     Stanley Baker (Tom Davis), Willem Botha (Court Clerk), Bob Courtney (Prison Chaplain), Ken Gampu (Ntuku Makwena), Gordon Hood (Prosecutor), Alfred Jabulani (Mpudi), Paul Makgoba (Masaba), Daniel Marolen (Priest), Sophie Mgcina (Choir Soloist), George Moore (Legal Aid Society Secretary), Flora Motaung (Rurari), Siegfried Mynhardt (Judge), Juliet Prowse (Marion Davis), Hugh Rouse (Bantu Commissioner), Jimmy Sabe (Lead singer), John Sithebe (Witch Doctor), Simon Swindell (Doctor), Thandi (Letsea), Clement Mehlomakulu Tlhotlhhalemji (Priest), Fusi Zazayokwe (Stick fighter).

South-Africa film.

Clashes of black and white cultures in South Africa as an African tribesman seeks justice for his murdered daughter.  But in order to get justice, he has to deal with the courts of the white man where justice for blacks is deaf, dumb and blind.

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Africans dancing in the Feast of the Strong Man.  Two fighters fight with short swords.  The winner is lifted onto the shoulders of the revelers and honored.  The vanquished is left to himself.   A little later a fellow picks him up and takes him down to the river where he washes him.  The vanquished is a man named Masaba.  He is very upset about his defeat as he was the Strong Man for many years.  So he climbs up the ladders on Sacred Mountain to speak with the witch doctor.  He asks the doctor to give him some medicine to make him big and strong again.  The witch doctor agrees to give him the medicine for fifteen oxen and some other items.  In addition, Masaba must eat the heart of a small girl with a twin sister. 

Ntuku Makwena has a set of twin girls.  His best friend is a man named Mpudi.  Ntuku visits with Mpudi at the house.  They talk about the Feast of the Strong Man.  Masaba is getting old and lost.  Ntuku sends his daughter Monika down to the stream to get some water for the family.  Ntuku goes to milk his cows.  A little later mother calls for Monika.  She has not back home from the river.      Mother calls her husband and she and Ntuku rush down to the river.  All they find is some of the garments Monika was wearing.  Ntuku runs to ask the neighbors to search for his missing daughter.  He then climbs up the ladders to ask the witch doctor: where is my daughter?  The witch doctor only replies with:  "There are things I do not tell!"  Ntuku starts to strangle the witch doctor who finally tells the father that Masaba killed his daughter. 

Ntuku goes down tot he village and chases after Masaba.  Just as Ntuku is about to catch Masaba, the man grabs a rock and hits Ntuku over the head with it.  Ntuku falls unconscious.  The villagers come to Ntuku's assistance, but the witch doctor from atop Sacred Mountain shouts that no one should touch Ntuku.  It is his punishment.  Ntuku's wife pleads on behalf of her husband.  The villagers are afraid to help him.  The wife begs the witch doctor to forgive him; to spare his life.  She climbs up the ladders to beg the witch doctor.  The witch doctor tells her that her husband must die or someone in his family must die.  While talking with the witch doctor, the wife falls off the mountain top to her death below.  The witch doctor calls down to the villagers:  "You can help him now."

Masaba asks the witch doctor what to do now.  He also wants to know how Ntuku found out.  The witch doctor tells Masaba to go to the white settlement.  He gives him some medicine to prevent Ntuku from being able to see Masaba. 

Ntuku buries his wife.  He promises her he will kill Masaba.  He then makes the milk tree cry for his wife and daughter by cutting its bark.  He then speaks with the witch doctor.  He apologizes and then asks him where he can find Masaba.  The witch doctor tells him that he has gone to the city of the white man.  He gives Ntuku some medicine to help him find Masaba.  Before Ntuku goes to the city, he burns his hut.  Mputi goes with his friend to the city of the white man. 

Ntuku and Mputi are in the city and Ntuku is already looking for Masaba.  He thinks he sees Masaba driving a public works cycle.  He chases after him, catches the man, but only finds out that it is not Mputi.  In the process, he really scares the man on the cycle who runs away.  People on the streets are staring at him.  He shouts for his friend Mputi, but the friend cannot be found.  A black minister comes up to a resting Ntuku to tell him that the street toughs want to take his money.  He urges Ntuku to come with him to his church where he will be safe.   The minister says the toughs respect him and asks Ntuku to give him his money so the thugs will see it is the minister who is carrying it.  Ntuku goes with the minister to a black church where the choir is singing.  There he leaves him.  After the service everyone leaves the church, except Ntuku.  He is still there when they turn off the church lights.

The next morning the church janitor discovers the sleeping Ntuku.  He quickly realizes that Ntuku has been a victim of a scam.  The minister who helped him is no minister at all.  The man got 30 pounds from Ntuku by conning him.  The janitor says he is the fifth victim of the conman. 

Ntuku starts working and is able to buy some new clothes.  Every night he looks for his friend Mputi and his enemy Masaba.  He goes to an exhibition of native singing and dancing and enjoys himself.  He wonders why his own tribe is the only one not represented in the exhibition.  Someone tells him that his people are up in the hills doing their stick fighting.  Ntuku goes into the hills to watch the stick fighting.  While there, he sees Masaba.  He wants to get Masaba when he is alone.  He will wait for the night and a chance to kill Masaba.  Masaba shows up on the city streets with a date.  Ntuku confronts him and starts choking him to death.  Masaba's female companion runs away and calls for the police.  Ntuku strangles the murderer to death.   

Ntuku is in a jail cell.  There he finds Mputi.  The inmates tell Ntuku that he will need a lawyer, but Ntuku doesn't understand:  "Lawyers? What lawyers?" he says.

A lawyer named Tom Davis visits Ntuku.  The native tells the lawyer that he has no money.  Davis tries to explain, but Ntuku does not understand.  The lawyer is from the Legal Aid Society.  He is a volunteer lawyer.  Davis informs Ntuku that that he did not kill Masaba.  Masaba is alive, but in the hospital.  Therefore, the charge will only be attempted murder.  Ntuku still doesn't want a lawyer.  He says:  "I will speak for myself."

Ntuku is pub back in his jail cell.  He tells his friend that Masaba is not dead.  Mputi says:  "Good.  Now they won't hang you." 

In court lawyer Davis enters a pleas of "not guilty" for his client.  Nkutu is a client in a very loose sense, since Davis has only gotten permission from Nkutu to assist him in his own defense.  Masaba is the first witness.  When the plantiff enters the courtroom Nkutu rushes him and tries to strangle him to death.  It takes a lot of men to pull Nkutu off Masaba.  The judge calls for an adjournment. 

The wife of lawyer Davis shows up.  She wants to adopt a child since they have been trying to get pregnant for four years.  But Davis wants his own biological child.  His wife is a bit miffed at him, because she is tired of waiting for a child. 

Back in court Ntuku explains to the judge that Masaba murdered his little daughter.  Davis whispers to an assistant:  "Now he tells us!"  Davis asks his client if his has any prove of this.  The judge objects to the question.  Davis apologizes and explains that he has not been instructed in the case.  The judge then tells Ntuku that Mabasa will be tried in the white man's court.  If he is found guilty, he will be hanged.  But Ntuku vigorously objects saying:  You must not kill him.  I must kill him.  (It's tribal law.)

Mrs. Davis is in the courtroom and she describes Ntuku to her husband as a "poor man".  Davis is uninterested and she tells that he is just a big, hard, cynical lawyer.   She then become very personal, saying that he is not even emotionally involved with his wife. 

Davis speaks with Ntuku and tells him:  "You mad me look pretty damn silly up there!"  Ntuku is not interested in Davis's feelings.  He repeats:  "I must kill him."  Davis says:  "You must not say that."  Ntuku rebuts with:  "If I am punished for doing my duty, it is wrong!"  His lawyer tries to explain that he wants to be his friend, but Ntuku is pretty cynical about lawyers and Davis in particular.  Finally, Davis asks Ntuku what he has to do to prove himself to the native.  Help his friend Mputi is the answer.  Davis agrees to do this, saying:  "We've got a deal.  Now tell me about Mputi."

The lawyer arrives home one day with Mputi.    His wife is impressed but still sarcastic to her husband. 

In court, Ntuku takes the stand and tells the story of what happened.  He says that Masaba admitted he killed his daughter.  The prosecutor cross-examines the defendant and says that perhaps the witch doctor only told him that Masaba killed his child because Ntuku was chocking the man at the time.  How did the witch doctor know, asks the prosecutor.  Ntuku says:  "He knows everything."  He adds that he knows Masaba killed his daughter:  his eyes told me that he killed her.  I know he killed her. 

After court, Ntuku tells Davis:  "You have betrayed me.  You said you would hang Masaba."  Davis attempts to explain it to the native without much success.  So the lawyer asks Ntuku to tell him all about the witch doctor. 

In court Davis explains that his client still believes that Masaba killed his child.  He grew up in the jungle, not in "civilized" society.  His tribe believes in what Ntuku did.  In fact, his client complied with the laws of his tribe.  Davis ends by asking the judge for the most lenient sentence possible for his client.  But the judge tells the court that Ntuku might try again to kill Masaba.  Therefore, to teach the defendant a lesson, he is sentenced to two years in prison. 

Mrs. Davis speaks with the Commissioner.  Then Mr. Davis tallks with him.  He asks if he had ever investigated the witch doctor in Ntuku's case.  Yes, he has.  Many time, but they could never pin anything on him.  The villagers all hate his guts, but they are afraid of him.  Seeing how interested Tom is in the case, his wife starts being nicer to him.  She asks him if they might be able to reopen the case.  Only if they can find some new evidence to justify such a reopening.  Mrs. Davis's doctor tells her that she is pregnant.  She and her husband are both very happy. 

Ntuku has to do hard labor breaking rocks.  He makes an escape attempt.  A spear is thrown at him, but it is a miss.  Then a second spear finds its mark.  It hits him in the back, but he is able to get back up and keep running.  He jumps into the water to avoid the hunting dogs.  After the dogs are gone, he gets out of the water and runs again.  The law secretary tells Davis about Ntuku's escape.  Davis hurries to talk with Mputi.  He tells the friend that they must stop Ntuku from killing Masaba.  Tom then invites his wife to go with him to Ntuku's village.  She gladly accepts.  She is impressed when he tells her that he is very willing to leave an important case to help Ntuku. 

Davis and his wife set up a camp site outside of the village.  They are very happy at the surrounding peace and quiet.  Mputi arrives to tell them that the police came again looking for Nkutu.  Davis goes to see the witch doctor, but he is very uncooperative using again the line:  "There are things I do not tell."  He then tells Davis that his wife is with child and he should look after her well.  This scares Davis and he runs back to his camp to make sure his wife is all right.  She is o.k. 

Mputi runs into Ntuku.  Mputi tells his friend that it was the witch doctor who actually killed the daughter.  There were witnesses to the crime, but now they are all dead.  Ntuku is surprised at this and goes into the village to talk with his family.  His own father confirms that it was the witch doctor who killed Monika. 

The witch doctor shouts down to the people that there will be a festival and that Tom Davis must be there to honor him.  At night the witch doctor arrives carried on a platform chair by  some of the tribesmen.  Ntuku talks to his wife at her grave and asks for advice.  He says the gods will destroy him if he kills the witch doctor.  But he still wants to kill the man.  He says:  "I will kill him and then I will be destroyed."

The festival starts.  Tom and his wife and Mputi attend.  They want to talk to Ntuku.  Davis asks the tribesmen for the evidence against the witch doctor, but they are too afraid to help.  They say they can't because the witch doctor is the son of the gods.  Davis tells everyone that the witch doctor is a fake.  He tells them:  "Get rid of this man.  Then your tribe can be happy."  But even Mputi still believes in the powers of the witch doctor.  Davis tells Ntuku to give himself up of he will have to stay a long time in prison. 

The witch doctor walks among his people.  Ntuku shows up.  He tells the witch doctor that white men say he is only a man, not a son of a god.  He then grabs the witch doctor and starts to strangle him to death.  The tribesmen try to pull Ntuku off of the witch doctor, but they are frightened away by the lightning and thunder nearby.   (This time Ntuku holds the pressure on even after the bad man goes unconscious).  The witch doctor dies.  Ntuku tells the others that you see, he was just a man.  Everyone is happy and they begin to dance and sing in celebration. 

Ntuku meets with Davis and his wife.  He tells them:  "Now they can hang me for killing the witch doctor."  But David responds:  "They won't hang you.  You've got a lawyer now, chief." 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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