The film, directed by Roberta Durrant, tells the story of 14-year-old Felix Xaba (Hlayani Junior Mabasa), who dreams of becoming a saxophonist like his late father, but must overcome obstacles at home and school in order to fulfill his heart’s desire. Felix’s mother Lindiwe believes jazz is the devil’s music and forbids her son to pursue his dream.
In director’s notes posted on the film’s website, www.felixthemovie.com, Durrant says she was drawn to writer Shirley Johnston’s script for “Felix” as “ a heartwarming and moving coming-of-age story set in post-apartheid South Africa with a strong Cape jazz element.”
“The strength of the script lay in both 13-year-old Felix’s journey of transformation, as well as his mother’s,” Durrant wrote. “I loved the way the script brought home the fact that our children can be agents of change in our personal journeys as parents.”
In the film, Felix defies his mother’s wishes when he leaves his township friends to take up an eighth-grade scholarship at an elitist private school. However, because bullies begin picking on him, school is difficult for Felix. He sees the school’s jazz concert as his opportunity to prove himself and turns to two aging members of his father’s old band to help him prepare for the school jazz concert.
“I approached Felix as a fable, incorporating a symmetrical and almost naïve feel, with bursts of colour accompanying the flourish of the jazz music. Integrating the music into the visuals was probably the most challenging,” Durrant wrote. “My intention was that people watching the movie would laugh and cry all at the same time.”
The film was named this year’s Audience Award Winner at the 2014 Tumbleweeds Film Festival in Salt Lake City. “Felix” has also won a variety of other international awards. The film was named Best Film at the 2013 Filmfest in Hamburg, and Durrant was named Best Director at the 2013 Africa International Film Festival.