The Suit: How Can Themba's Story Captures the Life and Struggle of Sophiatown
"The Suit" is a short story by the South African writer Can Themba. It was first published in 1963 in the inaugural issue of The Classic, a South African literary journal founded by Nat Nakasa and Nadine Gordimer. On publication, the story was banned by the apartheid regime. "The Suit" was adapted for the stage by Mothobi Mutloatse and Barney Simon in 1994, and has been adapted into a short film of the same name, written and directed by Jarryd Coetsee and premiered in 2016.
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The story takes places in Sophiatown, a township of Johannesburg, in the early 1950s, shortly before the apartheid regime forcibly removed non-whites from the area to make way for white resettlement under the Group Areas Act and the Natives Resettlement Act, 1954.Philemon, a doting husband who works for a lawyer, prepares breakfast in bed for his beautiful wife, Matilda whom he calls Tilly. He does this every day, taking deep pleasure in serving his wife rather than the whites whom he is obliged to serve under apartheid. Every morning is much the same: he readies himself, cooks and wakes Matilda, who refuses to let him wait around to clean up after her. Philemon and Matilda share a communal lavatory with thirty other people who live in a backyard slum which was typical in Sophiatown. Once dressed, Philemon leaves to catch his bus.
South African film-maker Jarryd Coetsee adapted the short story into a screenplay and directed a short film adaptation, The Suit, which held its African premiere on 12 July 2016 at the Old Fort of Zanzibar as part of the 19th Zanzibar International Film Festival where, although it was not in the official competition, was given a Special Mention by the jury. The film features Tony Award-winning South African actor John Kani as Mr. Maphikela, his son Atandwa Kani as Philemon, and Phuthi Nakene as Matilda.
The Suit is a short drama film from South Africa written and directed by Jarryd Coetsee, and produced by Luke Sharland, based on the short story by Can Themba. The film stars Tony Award-winner John Kani as Mr. Maphikela, and his son, Atandwa Kani as Philemon. Phuthi Nakene plays Matilda.
Philemon, a middle-class lawyer awakens his sleeping wife Matilda, whom he calls Tilly, in their bedroom, with breakfast in bed. He is dressed in a suit and carries a fedora. The married couple lives in Sophiatown, a township of Johannesburg, in the early 1950s, shortly before the apartheid regime forcibly removed non-whites from the area to make way for white resettlement under the Group Areas Act and the Natives Resettlement Act, 1954. She kisses him and adjusts his tie as he tells her that he better go or he will be late for work. She kisses him again for longer, then he leaves the house. Matilda climbs out of bed and walks to the bedroom window, watching Philemon walk away, then she turns back and gazes at the empty, lonely house.