Gangster’s Paradise Jerusalema is part fiction, part biopic, but all drama. It’s written and directed by Ralph Ziman and was inspired by the true story of a South African man who went from rags to riches during one of the most tumultuous times in the country’s history. It’s a gritty testament of what happens when hate and ambition blind your judgment…

The Players:

  • Director: Ralph Ziman
  • Writer: Ralph Ziman
  • Cast:  Motlatsi Mahloko, Jafta Mamabolo, Ronnie Nyakale, Rapulana Seiphemo, Jeffrey Zekele, Robert Hobbs,Kenneth Nkosi
  • Cinematography: Nic Hofmeyer
  • Original Music By: Alan Ari Lazar

The Plot:

The film centers on a South African resident named Lucky Kunene and his rise from poverty to petty thief to local slumlord. He along with his childhood friend Zakes are in a constant battle with the corrupt government in Johannesburg following the fall of its apartheid regime. After a streak of success both become victims of corruption, drugs, murder and their own circumstances.

The Good:

  • Cinematography: The camerawork captured Johannesburg on a surface level. It didn’t look like a foreign city, it felt local, and familiar. The shots were gritty but honest.
  • Casting: The actors were right on the money. They were all very talented but the two male leads, the younger and older versions of Lucky (Jafta Mamabolo, Rapulana Seiphemo) were spitting images of one another. That was great casting!
  • Story: We’ve all seen stories about power and greed but Jerusalema took one man’s story and tied it into the struggle of an entire country.

The Bad:

  • Subtitles: I’m a pretty fast reader but the subtitles in this film went by at the speed of light! It was also hard to catch what everyone was saying because they would fade in and out from their South African language to English.
  • Pacing: There were some parts of the film that dragged on longer than needed. If they shaved off 15-20 minutes it would have been perfect.


This film’s not for everybody but it does tell an interesting story that’s rooted in reality. This is NOT an escapist piece!

Rating: 6/10

Gangster’s Paradise Jerusalema hits theaters on June 11th!


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