The film DEEP END tells the familiar tale of star-crossed lovers, a disapproving father and a child striving to live outside of their community’s accepted social boundaries. What makes this version of the tale unique is not only the location: Durban, South Africa, and the communities the film focuses on: Indians and Coloreds (colored as a descriptor of one’s race has a negative history here in the United States, but is a legitimate racial classification in South Africa as a few of the movie’s characters attest to), but also the out of the norm activity the lead character Sunitha flouts custom to participate in: surfing.
The combination of these three elements are, on paper at least, head scratching. Though I fancy myself a well-educated woman with a fair to middling knowledge of South African history, I could not imagine how these pieces could be combined to make for a sensible story. Lucky for us director Eubulus Timothy is such a talent that he weaved together seemingly disparate elements to create a fun and heart-warming family-friendly feature.
The film follows Sunitha Patel, a young Indian woman living in Durban, as she falls in love with both the sport of surfing and with Cory, the White American surfer who teaches her a few things about catching a wave. Drama ensues because both of these actions go against the path her traditional Indian father has planned for her.
Beyond the usual light-hearted fun of, boy meets / chases / then eventually catches, girl rom-com fare, what I like most about DEEP END is that the director doesn’t shy away from the more serious issues that arise out of Sunitha’s dalliance with Cory and the surfing community. Specifically, the lingering effects that South Africa’s infamous racial caste system has on Sunitha’s various relationships. Though apartheid has been officially dismantled for some time now, it has left lasting scars on the population. Without being heavy-handed or preachy in its’ delivery, Timothy deftly explores the many small ways in which being an Indian or Coloured affects the everyday lives of Sunitha and her friends. The fact that the film takes the time to examine the traditions and lives of these communities is of particular interest, as most media that explores the effects of apartheid focuses primarily on the divisions between South African Blacks and Whites.
Timothy also takes a look at how South Africa’s Indian community strives to maintain their culture and traditions in the midst of the next generation’s evolution and assimilation. From arranged marriages to choosing to wear traditional Indian clothing over western dress, the filmmaker quietly infuses each scene with a few of the many of different choices Indians have to make when navigating their relationships and movement in South African society today. All while making us sigh wistfully, cheer enthusiastically and chuckle heartily at the antics of Suniitha and her multi-cultural crew.
DEEP END is a unique telling of a forbidden fruit love story that is a must see for all. Catch it at this years CaribbeanTales Film Festival in Toronto. It will be screening on September 13th at 9pm at the Revue Cinema.
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