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Fabian Medea Breaks New Ground In ‘Wild is the Wind’

Rethinking South African Movie in a Green Land
November 7, 2022
11:00 am
Fabian Medea

Fabian Medea’s first film, Wild is the Wind, produced by Known Associates Entertainment, became one of Netflix’s ten most watched films within days of being launched on 28 October 2022.


The film, like the director, is complex, intense, provocative, bold and almost realer than real.


“The film for me is in the style of African neo-realism,” Medea says, drawing parallels with French New Wave, German Expressionism, and Italian Neo Realism. “All these film styles are born out of pain and darkness,” Medea explains.


The film weaves together grim trends we recognise in South Africa today: corrupt police, mindless brutality and cruelty, violence against women, racism, drug trafficking, conflicted relationships and existential crisis.  This sensibility appears to manifest what German social psychologist, Eric Fromm said: “The more the drive toward life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive toward destruction.”


Director on set

Medea’s influences include the language and landscape of the 1996 crime film, Fargo, the villain, landscape, color pallet, pacing and horror of No Country for Old Men, and the character of Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird.


English and Afrikaans are the predominant languages in the film and dialogue flows easily from one to the other, but Tswana, Sotho, Xhosa are also spoken, and local dialects and colloquialisms are authentically assimilated into the narrative.


The title of the film, Wild is the Wind, comes from the Nina Simone song. Best known as a jazz singer, Nina Simone incorporated gospel, blues, folk, pop, and classical styles into her performance. Medea points out that while the music played on the piano is classical, the vocals are not. “The counterpoint in it is incredible,” he says, “and that is how I structured the film.  Everything on the surface looks like it is going in one way but it’s circular and it turns in on itself. It is all seemingly random and chaotic,” says Medea, who emphatically opposes absolutism and determinism.


Deon Coetzee and Michelle Douglas play Lizette and Martin van Der Walt

The film pivots around the friendship between two corrupt cops, a black cop, Vusi Matsoso played by Mothusi Magano, and a white cop, John Smit played by Frank Rautenbach. They are both focused on resolving their personal difficulties and improving the quality of their lives.  This is a strong bond between them.


“If you ask Frank or Mothusi what the film is about, they will say it is about the friendship between two men and their love for each other and how eventually their corrupt paths come back to haunt them. That is what the film is about at one level,” Medea explains.


Frank Rautenbach and Mothusi Mogano play John Smit and Vusi Matsoso

Mothusi took a long time to shake off the role after the film ended.  “He is arguably one of the best actors in the country, if not the continent, but he says he has never played a role as dark as Vusi with so many skeletons in his closet,” says Medea.


Wild is the Wind is the first South African film to be shot in Graaff-Reniet, an Eastern Cape town established in 1786, with more historical monuments than any other town in the country.  The town is encircled by the rich, mountainous greenness of Camdebo Park, where the historic Valley of Desolation, with its dolerite pillars rising to heights of 120 metres, is located. It was chosen because it is “exquisitely beautiful” and everything Medea needed in terms of sets was easily accessible.


Frank Rautenbach and Mothusi Mogano play John Smit and Vusi Matsoso

Although not personally religious, Medea is fascinated by biblical themes and for him the film is a representation of the apocalyptic Book of Revelation which depicts the return of Christ and the triumph of good over evil.


The music over the final sequence is Johnny Cash singing, “The Man Comes Around.”

‘And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts
And I looked, and behold a pale horse
And his name that sat on him was death, and hell followed with him’

Wild Is the Wind | Official Trailer | Netflix


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