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Movie Review: Beyond the River

Movie Review: Beyond the River

Movie Review: Beyond the River

22 June 2021

Beyond The River is an inspirational sports drama that will move you with the real-life story about how two men from different worlds won gold at the 2014 Dusi Canoe Race in South Africa.

Reviewed by Jessica Morris

Could you row and run 1500km over three days? Every year, more than 1500 people attempt this epic race on South Africa’s east coast.

The beauty of Beyond The River exists in the tension between Duma (Lemogang Tsipa) and Steve Andrews (Grant Swanby), as they strive to win The Dusi but must first learn to understand each other.

Named The Dusi Canoe Marathon, entrants spend years working towards the seemingly impossible trek from the Msunduzi River in Pietermaritzburg to the Umgeni River In Durban – all in the hope of winning a gold medal. Beyond The River tells the story of two of these people – a young man named Duma from the Soweto, and a Dusi veteran, Steve Andrews from Johannesburg.

Like all good sports films, Beyond the River is based on a true story, and the retelling of how these two men not only met but won gold at the 2014 Dusi is the perfect catalyst for a moving and compelling story. We meet Duma when he is stripping metal from the local power cables, a dangerous and illegal way to make some money to provide for his family. Lemogang Tsipa plays Duma, representing young rower Siseko Ntondini, and beautifully captures the cultural, societal, and economic complexities faced by a young man trying to survive when the odds are stacked against him at birth.

Alternatively, Steve couldn’t be more opposite. The private-school teacher, who went by the name Piers Cruickshanks in real life, is an accomplished middle-class white man. His sole goal is to win The Dusi, and he won’t let anything get in his way. Meanwhile, he ignores grief about losing his young son in an accident, and his marriage is falling apart.

This is a tremendous tale of two alternative worlds colliding, and we find that they need each other to go beyond survival and learn to truly live. Duma and members of his community speak in Zulu for much of the film, which is a highlight, and as his mentor, Oupa calls him (often quite drastically) into a life of purpose by returning to his childhood sport of rowing, we see Duma wrestle with what he must leave behind to pursue his dream.

Grant Swanby carries the nuance of Steve Andrews well, showing the light and shade of a man who is stubborn to a fault yet willing to give a young rower a chance at the expense of his own ego. Moments portraying everyday racism as the rowing community see the mixed-race team really drive home how important this real-life event was.

With award-winning cinematography and authentic characters, Beyond The River is a sports film without superfluous fluff. This is just true, honest storytelling at its best.

Beyond The River is rated M. It is available on DVD and is streaming now.

JESSICA MORRIS IS A STAFF WRITER FOR OTHERS

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