A township teenager must fight to keep alive his dream of becoming a musician when his eccentric father insists he take over the family’s marijuana-peddling business.
PROJECT TITLE: Strumming High
FORMAT: Feature Film
LOGLINE: A township teenager must fight to keep alive his dream of becoming a musician when his eccentric father insists he take over the family’s marijuana-peddling business.
GENRE: Comedy Drama
LANGUAGE: English / Xhosa
WRITER: Mustapha Hendricks
DIRECTOR: Meg Rickards
PRODUCERS: Paul Egan & Mustapha Hendricks
PRODUCTION COMPANY: Boondogle Films
Thirteen-year-old VIWE dreams of being a musician but it’s tough to get ahead in his township, especially with an overbearing, erratic father. And it’s not only external pressures – Viwe is the shyest boy you ever met. It’s hard enough to find the courage to speak to his school crush, much less perform for a crowd. After school he watches a charismatic ukulele player perform and jams along to the rhythm. Then it’s off to his job: selling marijuana on behalf of his father, SIPHIWE, a self-proclaimed, faux Rastafarian. When the ukulele player encourages Viwe to take lessons at a music outreach project, he heads over to check it out. But Viwe cannot find an instrument that echoes his musical rhythm. Determined to take a step towards his dream, Viwe returns to the music project, where he happens upon one of the teachers passionately playing a Spanish guitar. Viwe falls head over heels with the rhythmic sound. He signs up for lessons, which his very supportive mother, NOLUTHANDO, insists he keeps secret from his father.
Viwe practises daily at the music project and quickly improves. Initially, he manages to juggle his schoolwork and music classes, but soon more students join the project and there aren’t enough instruments to go round. Frustrated, Viwe goes on a hunt to find an instrument of his own but his only choice is a stringless guitar from a local pawn shop. Viwe finds quirky ways to raise money and finally he buys the guitar, fixes it up, and practices every day at a spot well off his father’s beat. A few people stop by to listen, especially Viwe’s mother Noluthando and the girl he admires, along with her friends, who adore jiving to the rhythmic sounds. Even his father Siphiwe hears about an amazing young Spanish guitarist in the neighbourhood. Viwe disguises himself (as a Gipsy King) each day so Siphiwe cannot recognise him. Viwe’s growing number of fans shower him in tips, enough so that he can stop selling marijuana. He uses the money he earns to pay Siphiwe – making him believe that he is still peddling weed. However, a jealous classmate rats on Viwe, and his father promptly marches down to confront Viwe for not focusing on selling marijuana, supposedly their bread-and-butter income. Siphiwe dumps Viwe’s guitar in a fit of rage and drags him to the music project. They arrive to find the place has been robbed. Unfazed, Siphiwe declares that Viwe will not return. Without a guitar and the music project left in ruins, Viwe is devastated. Noluthando consoles him, urging him to believe in his dreams. Viwe uses the last of his money to make a trip to the dumpsite, where he finds the guitar under old junk. But the foreman won’t let him retrieve it unless he can prove that he’s a musician by playing for all the workers. Viwe’s shyness nearly cripples him but then he throws caution to the wind, wows the workers, and wins back his instrument. Heading home, he decides that it’s time to prove his father wrong and save the music project.
Viwe organises a fundraiser concert with the other students to raise enough money to replace the stolen instruments. With plans underway for a big outdoor show, Viwe struggles to balance school with guitar practice, organising the concert and raising enough tips through busking with his guitar. The concert draws in crowds of locals, who cheer madly for the performing students. Viwe stands ready to perform as Noluthando brings in Siphiwe, who is infuriated at the sight of Viwe on stage. Viwe makes a heartfelt speech to the crowd, thanking his parents for bringing him to this point – he hopes they will be proud of him. He dedicates a solo performance to his father. The sound of Viwe’s passionate strumming slowly soothes Siphiwe, who proudly embraces Viwe and apologises for his harsh judgment. Viwe’s stellar efforts become an inspiration to everyone in his neighbourhood and the concert raises enough funds to replace the stolen instruments as well as purchase a few more. Having overcome his shyness and proven his worth to his father, Viwe is finally able to openly pursue his dream of becoming a musician…and finds the courage to kiss his crush for the first time.