Sew The Winter To My Skin

- KhanyaK


In the 1950s, the South African government tracks down and arrests a black rebel hero. - Rotten Tomatoes


        Adventure, Action

        Original Language:



        Jahmil X.T. Qubeka


        Layla Swart


        Jahmil X.T. Qubeka


        1h 58m

Director Jahmil X.T Qubeka, much like A Quiet Place directs the story of John Kepe with little to no dialogue. A white, liberal journalist recounts and takes us through the chase and trial of the “Native Robinhood” and black liberal hero of the 1950’s John Kepe, who was a threat to the colonial farming community.


Jahmil X.T Qubeka portrays the chase and trial of John Kepe, popularly known as the Samson of the Boschberg, according to Screen Africa. The narrative and choice of events captivates and thrills the viewer for the majority of the film.



John Kepe was an infamous thief in the Eastern Cape in the 1950s. The criminal mastermind lived, undetected, in the Boschberg caves for over a decade, collecting stolen items including over a hundred sheep, cooking utensils and clothes, redistributing the goods to the poor black and coloured community of Somerset East. Kepe’s legacy still haunts the slopes of the Boschberg Mountains.

The film starring Zolisa Xaluva, Brenda Ngxoli, Mandisa Nduna, Bongile Mantsai as well as Ezra Mabengeza who plays John Kepe carried the entire film solely on their wordless performances. Shooting and directing a film without dialogue is an interesting way to fully experience and watch an actor or actress' true talent. Everything boils down to gestures, facial expressions as well as emotions.

On the other hand, Sew The Winter To My Skin vaguely covered some incidents John Kepe was involved in, leaving the film to almost feel incomplete or not as fulfilling as it could have been. The film having no dialogue adding onto the feeling of “could’ve”, we could’ve learned more about John Kepe, could have understood his unfortunate relations with the colonial government of the 1950s. Could have heard his side of the story. Someone described the film’s visual aesthetic as strong but felt Sew the Winter to my Skin never felt as impactful as the man whose myth it is telling.


Having said that, the film's aesthetics are impeccable. It is a well shot film that covers and portrays Somerset East and the rest of the Eastern Cape in a colourful and vast manner. The wardrobe, sets, color and actors were carefully chosen and curated. It is clear that much work went into even the finest details in each scene. Without dialogue, Qubeka still managed to fill a scene with thrill and managed to captivate the viewer until the end through music, tone as well as Ezra Mabengeza’s highly physical and expressive performance.


Every scene is carefully framed and colored to match the color scheme, tone and pace of the entire film delivering captivating moments each time.


Overall, Sew The Winter To My Skin is a must watch and great representation of the growing film industry in South Africa.