By BRUCE DENNILL
This is an odd little film, which is part of its appeal. Jemma Kahn has made a fascinating, brilliant career out of finding the drama – the theatre – in strange cultural corners, from beguiling Japanese art to sock puppets. So recreating a press conference for a short piece influenced by trending apps like TikTok seems fair game.
Steve Smith is one of the most talented cricketers in the modern era – with the second-highest Test batting rating in history, the joint most consecutive 50-plus scores in Cricket World Cup, and the only player to win the ICC Test Player of the Year award more than once, among many other accolades. He was also the captain of the Australian team that, during their 2018 tour to South Africa, tampered with the ball during a match they were losing – badly. The cheating was caught on camera and a number of players were disciplined and suspended, with Smith understandably being the focus of the anger, disappointment and intense analysis that followed.
As such, the short press conference Smith gave in which he apologised and took responsibility for what happened was packed with everything a scriptwriter would be expected to include in a strong narrative. There is tension. There are tears. There is a spectacular fall from grace (or at least the reminder of one). There are poignant moments. And there is the schadenfreude, for South Africans and other international cricket fans, of seeing the arrogance of a strutting Australian violently undercut.
The reconstruction of that scene both copies the look of the press conference – down to the sweeping back of actor De Klerk Oelofse’s hair and the colour of the chinos of Smith’s dad (about two-thirds of Albert Pretorius makes an appearance) – and revisits the emotional roller-coaster Smith and his fans were strapped into. Oelofse’s lip-syncing is almost weirdly perfect, and his tics and mannerisms further blur the line between actor and cricketer, already fractured by Kahn’s editing, which often sees the two completing different parts of the same sentence.
The concept may not work for everyone, but it is beautifully realised and if nothing else, it may inspire viewers to recognise the more compelling stories on show in mainstream media.