By Sharon Calingasan
Director: Wanna Fourie
The Priest and the Thief is a curious study of human nature and the justifications of a person’s good or bad intentions. The opening scene gives viewers an introduction to the community and the lead characters; the devout priest, and the hungry thief sneaking into the church and ultimately stealing away money donations. From here onwards, one discovers a queer scenario as the thief attempts to rationalize his way out of this serious offense. He refuses to acknowledge his crime as a wrongful deed but as an application of the Lord’s money. The poor priest, ever the dutiful servant of the Lord, is at a loss for reason and along the way starts to justify the fellow’s actions as a test of faith for him.
The priest, played by Khulikani Magubane, gives a convincing portrayal of a Lord’s servant, mindful of his flock and as well as of his own actions and judgement. Magubane’s rich baritone voice is put to good use when he hums a few lines of a spiritual song on a night he can’t sleep due to anxiety. The priest also has a comedic side that surfaces every now and then. The thief, played by Sizwe Dlamini, also pulls off a strong performance as a homeless kid who robs the village church, justifying his act by reasoning that it is the Lord’s currency, and thus, neither the priest nor anyone else is entitled to it.
Not content with the loot, the thief returns to the church for the night hoping to take shelter there but is caught by the priest. This, however, doesn’t deter him from pestering the priest and, to top it all, he plays pranks that push the priest to question his own mental wellbeing. What is unique about this thief character is the fact that, despite robbing the church, he still decides to utter a prayer of thanks to the Lord, right after having a hearty meal which he bought using the money. Indeed, there is a striking contradiction to this thief: first of all, he justifies his act as not stealing because it’s the Lord’s money; secondly, instead of feeling remorseful, he is the one acting up and confronting the priest; and, lastly, despite his misdeeds, he is always seen communing with the Lord as if he were talking to his best friend.
Directed and written by Wanna Fourie, this digitally restored film from South Africa gives viewers a peek at South African landscapes and local culture. The aerial shots are stunning and the central structure, the village church, stands out in all its whiteness. Amidst a simple plot, focusing on the struggle between the good and bad sides of men, viewers get to appreciate the film’s profundity and quiet honesty in tackling universal and fundamental ideas. As a final note, it gives hints of the Golden Rule: “Don’t do unto others, what you don’t want others to do unto you”.
Watch The Priest and the Thief on FilmDoo.com.